Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown lets drunken driver out of prison, bans him from driving

Gov. Jerry Brown arrives for his State of the State address in the Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol on Thursday January 21, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif.
Gov. Jerry Brown arrives for his State of the State address in the Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol on Thursday January 21, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown let stand about 86 percent of convicted killers’ parole releases in 2015, using his power to reverse decisions of the state parole board slightly less frequently than in previous years.

Brown also modified one parole grant – letting out a repeat drunken driver involved in a fatal collision, but prohibiting him from drinking or driving a car, according to a report released Friday.

Brown has intervened in parole releases relatively infrequently since taking office in 2011, with courts requiring evidence that a convict poses a continued risk to public safety.

Brown last year reversed 95 of the 702 parole grants he reviewed for lifers serving time for murder. The Democratic governor intervened slightly more often in 2014, but still let about 80 percent of parole grants stand.

I am not comfortable allowing Mr. Romine to get behind the wheel of a vehicle again.

Gov. Jerry Brown

Soon after taking office in 2011, Brown denied parole for Walter Romine, a repeat drunken driving offender who was involved in a crash that killed a woman in Fullerton in 1996.

But Brown did not stand in the way of his parole when it came up again last year. Instead, he modified the man’s parole grant to prohibit him from operating a vehicle, drinking alcohol and entering any bar or liquor store. He also required Romine to submit to random testing for alcohol by a parole agent.

“In light of his serious addiction and Mr. Romine’s willingness to overlook the mortal danger of drinking and driving, I am not comfortable allowing Mr. Romine to get behind the wheel of a vehicle again,” Brown wrote.

Among decisions Brown reversed were parole grants for:

▪ David Weidert, who was convicted of luring a man from his Clovis apartment, torturing him and burying him alive in 1980. Weidert had forced the man, Michael Morganti, to dig his own grave before beating him with an aluminum bat and stabbing him.

▪ Robert Holguin, who at 13 years old used a skateboard to beat an 87-year-old man to death in San Luis Obispo. Holguin in 2005 snuck into the trailer of Gerald O’Malley, bludgeoned the man, stole his money and drew a cartoon devil on a blackboard in the trailer.

Brown said Holguin’s “culpability is somewhat diminished because he was only 13 when he committed this vicious time.” He also praised Holguin for participating in therapy and job training programs.

But Brown, citing instances of misconduct and erratic behavior by Holguin while in prison, said he “poses an unreasonable danger to society if released.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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