Spitzer in earlier interviews on local and national news outlets and a statement to the public sharply criticized the decision by a court commissioner to release seven “high-risk” sex offenders for time served. The DA’s office now says that six of those seven offenders have already been re-arrested.
The district attorney has alleged that the release of the sex offenders was part of a larger effort by court officials to do “everything in their power to” reduce the jail population. Public Defender Sharon Petrosino countered by accusing Spitzer of “fear-mongering” and distorting the facts of the cases to scare the public.
According to the DA’s office, most of the six accused of violating parole after their release either failed to adhere to their supervision or rendered their GPS units inoperable. As of Monday they remained behind bars, local jail records show.
“It comes as no surprise that these high-risk sex offenders continue to violate the law and do everything they can to avoid being tracked by law enforcement,” Spitzer said in a statement. “There is a concerted effort here in California and across the nation to open up the jailhouse doors and let dangerous criminals back into our streets without regard for the safety of the public which we are sworn to protect.”
The public defenders office has noted that the more recent recent offenses by the individuals spotlighted by Spitzer were not sex crimes, but instead crimes such as drug possession or making criminal threats. The public defenders office also noted that many parolees charge their GPS devices at county facilities that are now closed.
Law enforcement officials across the state have wrestled with how to halt the spread of coronavirus in prisons and local jails. Some efforts – including the early release of non-violent inmates near the end of their sentences – have been backed by police. Others – including a “no bail” edict for low-level crimes backed by the California Judicial Council – have drawn local opposition.
The release of the sex offenders also drew condemnation from some local leaders. In a letter to Commissioner Joe Dane, Santa Ana Councilman Phil Bacerra denounced the decision to release the inmates early..
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has taken the appropriate steps to responsibly reduce the population at the Orange County Jail to help limit the spread of Coronavirus,” Bacerra wrote. “However, there has not been a need to release additional inmates, particularly dangerous ones, from the jail. Your actions jeopardize the safety and well-being of our community.”
Dane has not commented on the criticism, with Orange County judicial officials pointing to legal and ethical restrictions that bar judges or commissioners from speaking about active criminal cases. Since Dane is an appointed commissioner, not a sitting judge, the DA’s office is now using its right to object to his overseeing parole violations involving sex offenders.