In January 2015, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began a new parole determination process after a federal court ordered California to reduce prison overcrowding. As a result, inmates characterized as “nonviolent second-strikers” (NVSS) became eligible for early parole. In November 2016, Proposition 57 was then passed with the promise that “nonviolent” inmates who “turn their lives around” in prison could also earn early parole under a new “nonviolent parole review” (NVPR).
Qualifying NVSS and NVPR inmates must not currently be serving a sentence for a crime legally categorized as a violent felony and must not be required to register as sex offenders. NVSS inmates must have served (or be within 12 months of serving) only 50 percent of their sentence, while NVPR inmates may be paroled after serving the base term for the principal offense and may earn additional conduct credits.
The Board of Prison Hearings (BPH) determines whether NVSS or NVPR offenders would pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community based on a paper review of prior criminal history, facts of the current commitment offense, behavior in prison, rehabilitation efforts, whether the inmate has any medical condition which might affect the ability to re-offend, and written statements.
Unlike parole hearings - where the prosecution, defense attorney, and victim may appear - there is no public hearing for these BPH administrative reviews. Additionally, no evidence-based risk assessment is conducted prior to consideration of early release to indicate an inmate’s safety risk.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office takes an active role in evaluating NVSS and NVPR cases. For inmates who appear to pose a danger to the public, the office writes opposition letters to BPH with an overview of the inmate’s criminal history and current commitment offense, and an opinion on the public safety risk if an inmate is granted early release. NVPR cases are especially concerning since prosecutors are denied access to records of the inmate’s behavior behind bars, which is critical to rehabilitation, and do not have a right to appeal an early parole decision.
Many of the offenders who are granted early prison release have violent and lengthy criminal histories. District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert feels it is important for the public to be aware of the so-called “nonviolent” offenders being released early from prison into our neighborhoods.
As of October 31, 2017, 288 inmates sentenced from Sacramento County have been granted early prison release. Information about some of these inmates can be found on the Early Prison Releases webpage at www.sacda.org/early-prison-releases. Monthly press releases are issued to provide the public with a sampling of recent noteworthy offenders, including:
Robert Bruno (Case #16FE002514) – Bruno is a violent gang member. In February 2016, he was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by officers to execute a search warrant on the driver. The driver was Bruno’s fellow Oak Park Norteno gang member, who was a suspect in a burglary case. During the search of the vehicle, a stolen loaded .40 caliber Glock was located in the glove compartment. Bruno claimed ownership of the firearm and admitted to carrying it around in his pocket before entering the vehicle. He was convicted of felon in possession of firearm with a prior and sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison. In October 2010, Bruno and his fellow gang member were observed removing tires and rims from a vehicle. They tried to evade arrest, leading officers on a high speed chase before taking off on foot in an attempt to hide in neighboring backyards. Bruno was convicted of buying or receiving stolen property and sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison. In 2004, Bruno and his associate gang members assaulted a 15-year-old boy and his friend. Bruno and three of his associates beat the victim using their hands and feet while another in their group stabbed the victim several times with a screwdriver. The victim became comatose due to a brain injury and suffered paralysis. Although Bruno was only 17 at the time, he was prosecuted as an adult and was initially charged with attempted murder with allegations of inflicting great bodily injury and committing the offense for the benefit of the Norteno gang. Bruno was allowed to plead to battery causing serious bodily injury and was sentenced to one year in county jail and 5 years formal probation. Bruno has a violent criminal history and long-standing gang affiliation, which has already earned him several prior prison commitments. Opposition Letter
Alton Ackerson (Case #14F07349) – Ackerson has a 2009 violent strike conviction for robbery. In that case, Ackerson and his associates committed a string of robberies over the course of one month. During each of the robberies, they were armed with a handgun and would hit the victim with the gun, put the gun in the victim's face or just show the victim they were armed as they robbed them. Ackerson was sentenced to one year in jail and placed on 5 years formal probation. In 2012, Ackerson was convicted of making criminal threats. In that case, Ackerson's brother was incarcerated for domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend. On the night of the offense, the ex-girlfriend was standing outside of her front door when Ackerson got out of his vehicle, went up to the victim and spit in the victim's face. He continued to yell at the victim saying, "You put my brother in jail!" He then punched the victim in the face and her right shoulder, kicked her in the abdomen, lifted up his shirt to expose a handgun and said, "I'll kill you if you call the police!" At that time, Ackerson was still on active formal probation for the 2008 robbery strike conviction. He was sentenced to 32 months in state prison for that offense and for admitting to the prior 2008 strike conviction. While on parole for the 2012 criminal threats conviction, Ackerson was arrested on his current commitment offense when a search of his apartment revealed 21 individually packaged tear-off baggies with rock cocaine inside each of them. The total weight of the rock cocaine was 2.60 grams. Officers also located two cell phones belonging to Ackerson, a digital scale and various denominations of money. He was convicted in 2014 for possession or purchase of cocaine for sale and received a 6 year prison sentence for his most recent felony conviction. Ackerson is a violent career criminal who has been convicted of three felony offenses, two of which are strike offenses, and violated probation and parole multiple times. Opposition Letter
Daniel Velasquez (Case #15F05375) –Velasquez has a prior 2010 felony conviction for assault with a semi-automatic weapon. In that case, Velasquez and a group of friends were harassing the female victims at a convenience store. Several of the men jumped into the victims' car while they were still in the store. When the victims exited the store, they asked the men to get out of the car. Velasquez proceeded to pull out a semi-automatic firearm and said, "F-you” before firing two to three times at one of the females. The shots struck the front glass doors of the market. The victim sustained a cut on her stomach from the glass. In 2013, Velasquez was convicted of domestic violence against his girlfriend. In Velasquez’s most recent 2015 case, police officers conducted a probation search of his apartment and found 2.69 lbs. of methamphetamine, a digital scale, 13 pills of hydrocodone, 43 pills of ecstasy, several large quantities of ammunition, an empty 10 round capacity magazine and a jar of money. Velasquez’s five children (all under the age of 10) and nephew were in the living room when police showed up unexpectedly for the search. The police located the narcotics and ammunition in an open closet in the back bedroom, presenting a serious danger to the safety and welfare of the children in the home. Velasquez was convicted of possession for sale of a controlled substance and felon in possession of ammunition. He was sentenced to 5 years, 4 months in prison. Velasquez has displayed a pattern of escalating criminal and violent behavior with complete disregard for the safety of others around him. Opposition Letter
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