Following two days of hearings in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, 16 inmates likely have been released or will be released from county jail as part of a state initiative to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in detention facilities. [Tribune]
Several more inmates could be released in the coming days, though it appears many of the inmates initially considered to be candidates for $0 bail will remain in jail.
The court hearings followed a California Judicial Council order to reduce jail populations statewide. The order, which took effect Monday, allows bail to be reduced to $0 for those awaiting trial for most misdemeanors and felonies that, by California law, are not considered violent crimes.
Earlier this week, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said an estimated 50 inmates could be released from jail.
However, only 33 inmates’ cases made it to court. SLO County prosecutors contested the emergency bail request for all 33 inmates.
Prosecutors, though, did not file formal motions opposing the release of nine of the 33 defendants. It was assumed those inmates would be granted release from jail under the Judicial Council order.
In a lone emergency bail hearing held last week, an Atascadero bookkeeper charged with embezzlement was denied $0 bail.
A total of 23 cases were heard in court on Monday and Tuesday. Of the 23 cases, judges granted $0 bail for seven jail inmates; kept bail in place for 10 defendants; and continued six of the cases to a future date.
Inmates who were granted $0 bail returned to the jail to gather their belongings and sign release paperwork. For some of the inmates who were denied $0 bail, judges ruled to change their bail amount.
As of Tuesday, there has yet to be a single coronavirus case in SLO County Jail. Neither inmates, nor any jail staff have thus far contracted the virus.
One of the inmates who was granted release from jail is South County bookkeeper Ginger Mankins, who allegedly embezzled a total of more than $5 million from a pair of Arroyo Grande agricultural companies.
Among the cases prosecutors won was that of Rogelio Miranda, who is the suspected leader of a drug ring that allegedly transported heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico to San Luis Obispo County. Rogelio was one of 13 people indicted in the case in March by a San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury.
On Tuesday, Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Muscari argued in court that Miranda should not be granted release because he is a flight risk, having previously led law enforcement on a car chase. Likewise, Muscari said Miranda supplied drugs to a dealer who lived near Paso Robles High School and has a lengthy criminal history for selling drugs.
Miranda’s attorney Patrick Fisher argued that his client’s family lives locally and his most recent conviction was in 2005. Additionally, Fisher said Miranda was previously released from custody for three days before prosecutors filed charges, and he did not flee during that span.
Judge Dodie Harman denied the $0 bail request, stating Miranda presents a flight risk since he previously fled officers and was found with more than 2.2 pounds of heroin. Harman adjusted Miranda’s bail to $370,000.
Over the course of the two days of hearings, prosecutors strongly opposed most zero bail requests. Prosecutors succeeded in arguing judges should use their discretion and weigh whether defendants have a history of violence or failing to appear at court hearings or drug treatment.
Steve Rice, assistant managing attorney for the SLO Defenders, the public defenders law firm that contracts with the county, argued prosecutors are engaging in scare tactics, and they have means other than bail to protect alleged victims of crimes.