Friday, September 07, 2012


Sentenced to 100 days for parole violation, released after only 23 days, attempted to rape woman just 10 days later

With respect to Moonbeam’s realignment, here is what PACOVILLA follower ‘Stillworking’ said about this case: This is the new normal that our law makers have created, so get used to it or start writing to legislators and supporters of AB109 [the Realignment law] that things need to be changed. If you talk to any law officers who work the streets or listen to the news these last 3 or 4 months, they’re saying the same thing. The crime rate is out of control and the criminals are recommitting crimes at a higher rate, knowing they’ll be set free with little or no time served. Maybe the new normal is crime does pay!

By Victor A. Patton

Merced Sun-Star
September 5, 2012

A convicted sex offender accused of attempting to sexually assault a 20-year-old woman Saturday had been released early from the Merced County Jail just days before the incident.

The suspect, Gabriel Fuentes, was released under the guidelines of Assembly Bill 109, the state's prison realignment law.

AB 109 was signed into law in April 2011 to reduce the state's budget deficit and meet a U.S. Supreme Court order to remove about 33,000 inmates from the state's 33 overcrowded prisons by May 2013.

But Fuentes, 45, is an example of how some inmates with a history of serious offenses who would normally be sent to prison for violating their parole can be released after only a few weeks in jail, officials said.

According Merced police Lt. Bimley West, Fuentes was arrested Saturday shortly after he approached the victim in the parking lot of the Marie Green Psychiatric Center and tried to sexually assault her.

In 1992, Fuentes was convicted in Merced County of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and sentenced to three years in prison.

Since then, Fuentes has been in custody for numerous parole violations, said Peter Leu, supervisor of the state parole office in Merced. In August 2010, Fuentes was paroled on a narcotics and weapon possession charge.

He was arrested again Aug. 5 after failing to check in with his parole officer, Leu said. Fuentes then went before Stewart Gardner, a deputy commissioner with the state board of parole hearings, who sentenced him to 100 days in jail.

Before AB 109, Fuentes would have been sent to state prison for up to a year. Under the law, however, the maximum amount of time behind bars Fuentes could receive for violating his parole was 180 days in the county jail, Leu said.

Fuentes was released from Merced County Jail on Aug. 28, after only 23 days in custody.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman, said county jail officials released Fuentes early because of overcrowding. Under AB 109, counties are allowed to release inmates early under such conditions.

The county's two jails -- the Main Jail and the John Latorraca Correctional Center -- have a combined population cap of 580 inmates. The Main Jail currently holds 170 inmates, while the Latorraca Center houses 506 inmates, for a total of 676 inmates.

MacKenzie said Fuentes' parole violation by itself was not considered a violent offense. And with the lack of beds at the jail, officials there decided to release him early to make room for more violent offenders. MacKenzie said the decision to release an inmate is generally made by classification sergeants and lieutenants at the jail, after reviewing each case.

Gardner, who's served as a deputy commissioner for seven years, said cases like Fuentes' are not rare. Gardner said he looks at a parole violator's entire case, including prior offenses, before determining a sentence.

Regardless, Gardner said, the maximum he can sentence a parole violator under AB 109 to is 180 days. "We sentence them and it's up to (the counties) whether they serve the time," he said.

Gardner said he doesn't remember Fuentes' case specifically, saying he sentences about 50 parole violators per week in counties statewide. "I certainly didn't intend for him to be released early, but we're not really in control anymore," he said.

Still, Gardner wasn't surprised to hear an inmate that he sentenced was re- arrested after a only a short time in jail.

"It's happening all up and down the state," he said. "When you deal with large volumes of numbers, bad things are going to happen sooner or later."

Police say the incident triggering Fuentes' arrest took place at 1:48 p.m. Saturday.

According to police, the victim noticed Fuentes was in the parking lot of the psychiatric center on 15th Street and saw that he was removing his clothes. The victim ran, but was caught and thrown to the ground.

West said the assailant grabbed the victim's hair and slammed her head against the pavement. He said the assailant then tried to sexually assault her as she fought with him and demanded that he let her go.

The attack continued, West said, until a psychiatric center employee came to a nearby door. Upon seeing the employee, police said, the assailant ran from the scene.

Officers captured Fuentes a short time later when he returned to the psychiatric center and began knocking on a side door. West said Fuentes was naked when officers arrested him.

He was booked at the Merced County Jail on suspicion of the parole violation and assault with intent to commit a sexual crime. He's being held without bail, and is scheduled to be arraigned this week.

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