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Suspects in Santa Monica's Most Violent Crimes Were Repeat Offenders

 

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By Jorge Casuso

March 13, 2018 -- At least six of the suspects charged with some of the most violent crimes in Santa Monica since the beginning of 2017 were either felons or on probation, fueling concerns that a state law to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons could be a contributing factor.

Santa Monica Police have pointed to Proposition 47, which was approved by California voters in 2014, as having put some of those would commit violent crimes -- including murder, attempted murder and attempted rape -- back on the streets.

Santa Monica voters approved the measure with nearly 80 percent of the vote -- 20,326 to 5,506 -- compared to voters across the state, who approved the measure with 60 percent of the vote.

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Under the law “non-serious, nonviolent crimes" are classified as misdemeanors instead of felonies unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.

The law also allows the re-sentencing of an estimated 10,000 inmates serving prison sentences for the crimes reduced to misdemeanors under the law.

"It's definitely a cycle," said Lt. Saul Rodriguez, the Police Department spokesman. "It's pretty consistent.

"Some are on parole, probation or have been released early," he said. "Some are felons convicted of previous crimes.

It is unclear if the suspects in some of the more violent crimes that have rattled the seaside city since January 1, 2017 would have been serving time had the law not passed.

But more than half a dozen of those suspects had prior crimial records, according to the charges filed in court.

An analysis by The Lookout found that three of the suspects were charged with being felons in possession of a firearm, three others were on parole and another was arrested in jail, where he was being held for another crime.

The following suspects had criminal records:

Carl Marcel Nelson, who was charged with attempted murder in a shooting outside a Downtown bar last month, also was charged with being a previously convicted felon in possession of a firearm ("Suspect Charged in Santa Monica Shooting Last Month," March 12, 2018).

Roy Antonio Davis, who was charged with killing 88-year-old John Hautz in his apartment shortly before New Year's day, was already in Los Angeles County Jail on an unrelated robbery when Santa Monica detectives tied him to the crime ("LA Man Charged with Murder of Santa Monica Senior," February 27, 2018).

Rashad Devon Harris, who was charged with the attempted rape and assualt of a women stabbed multiple times in her apartment near Downtown last month, was arrested at the Van Nuys Probation Office in the San Fernando Valley
("Santa Monica Police Arrest Suspect in Violent Home Invasion Robbery," February 27, 2018).

Christopher Charles Davis, a 46-year-old homeless man who was charged with the murder of another homeless man on Main Street last August, was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm ("Suspect, Victim in Santa Monica Shooting May Have Been Homeless, Police Say," August 7, 2017).

Brian Noah Morgan and a male juvenile, who were charged in two brutal home invasion robberies North of Montana last May that sent three victims to the hospital, also were on parole ("Suspects Charged in Two Brutal Home Invasion Robberies in Santa Monica," May 31, 2017).

Sherwin Mendoza Espinosa, who was charged in the February 2017 murder of Juan Sebastian Castillo, a teenager who had graduated from Santa Monica High School the previous year, was also charged for being a felon in possession of a firearm ("Man Charged in Connection with Santa Monica Teen’s Murder," May 22, 2017).

The impact of Proposition 47 on crime has been the subject of heated debate.

Proponents of the measure point to the results of a UC Irvine study released last week that suggest the passage of the law “has had no effect on violent crimes, including homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.”

Critics disagree with what the authors themselves called a "quasi-experimental” study and point to a special reporting project by newspapers in Palm Springs, Ventura, Salinas and Redding analyzing Proposition 47.

The investigation, conducted in 2016, found that under the law 13,500 inmates had been released early from prison and as many as 200,000 felony convictions had been reduced to misdemeanors.

L.A. County’s prosecutors are currently backing a proposed law -- Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 -- that supporters hope will address concerns with Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, which was approved two years later and hastened the release of some non-violent offenders from prisons.

The initiative increases supervision of parolees, returns accountability for parole violations to the courts and eliminates early release for certain violent crimes, such as rape of an unconscious person and assault on a police officer.

 


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