Frustrated with California’s justice system, a Fresno County judge on Friday set a burglary suspect’s bail at $1 million to make sure she wouldn’t be able to get out of jail easily.
The defendant, Ashley Ellis, 28, of Oklahoma, shook her head as Judge Jon Kapetan hiked her bail from the statutory amount of $55,000 to $1 million. Typically, someone charged with murder is given a bail around $1.5 million or above.
Ellis is charged with a count of first-degree residential burglary and two counts of burglary in the second degree. Her public defender Marco Aguiar requested that she be released while she waits for her next court appearance.
Kapetan refused the request after hearing from one of Ellis’s alleged victims. He was home with his daughter when the defendant allegedly broke into their apartment and stole various items. Prosecutors say that included a container with the ashes of a family member.
Ellis also has a pending auto theft charge. “I hope to God that the jail keeps her in jail…but I can’t even guarantee that sir,” Kapetan said. “I’ve been burglarized twice myself and I feel for you and your daughter. I don’t know what to tell people anymore.”
In denying her request for release, Kapetan said he didn’t believe Ellis was going to follow any of his orders and could possibly flee. She was booked into the Fresno County jail on Wednesday.
“She has a pending auto theft and she has committed this residential burglary, a hot prowl burglary and she is from another state, Oklahoma,” he said. “I find that there are no other reasonable alternatives for pre-trial release.”
After setting her bail at $1 million, Kapetan said “You want to appeal it, go ahead and appeal it.”
Public defender Aguiar said he planned to. “I object to the issuance of a $1 million dollar bail,” Aguiar said. “This is not in the class of crimes in which generally $1 million dollar bails are classified.”
Judge cites other reasons for frustration
Kapetan, who was elected to the bench in 2002, has previously voiced his frustration over people being victimized while their alleged perpetrators are allowed to walk out of jail because of changes in the bail system.
Last year during the height of the pandemic, the state Judicial Council temporarily set the bail schedule at zero dollars for misdemeanors and low-level felonies as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19 in California’s jails.
That action has since been rescinded, but some in law enforcement credit the change for a spike in crime.
Also getting the blame for rising crime rates was the 2014 passage of Proposition 47, which reclassified many theft and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors, while also reducing time for some inmates in prisons. The proposition also allowed inmates convicted of felonies have their crimes reclassified. Others were able to be released.
Supporters of the proposition said one of its goals was to reduce California’s overflowing prison population while also saving the state money. The savings are redirected to fund mental health and drug treatment programs, programs for at-risk K-12 students, and trauma recovery services for victims of crime.
Kapetan made it clear Friday he is not a fan of the new law.
“We passed something called Prop. 47 that they sold to everybody by calling it the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, but what it did is release thousands of state prisoners into our local communities,” he said.
*story by The Fresno Bee