NEWS ALERT State Budget Saving Measure to Keep Felons out of Prison Proves Deadly Non-Violent/Non-Serious Felon Arrested for Double Murder

Posted on May 16, 2011. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Parole, Politics |

CVAA has shared with you information about Non-Revocable Parole over the past few years.  CVAA fought against Non-Revocable Parole, along with most law enforcement associations and organizations across the State, arguing that is was dangerous and would risk public safety.  However, our concerns and objections fell on deaf ears.

Non-revocable parole passed as a Budget measure last year, very much like the current Budget cost savings plan AB 109 that will allow felons like Zachariah Timothy Lehnen to never see the inside of a prison.  In fact, this type of criminal may never see a jail cell as our counties are overburdened as it is and are currently trying to figure out what to do with their current criminal population.

In a meeting last week with Governor’s staff, CVAA was informed that AB 109 is intended to be implemented on July 1, 2011 because the State can no longer afford the burden of keeping it’s citizen’s safe.  Of course, the Governor did state in his signing message he will not implement AB 109 without adequate funding.  However, CVAA has been informed that the Governor is determined to see AB 109 implemented and one way or another.

As many of you are probably reading in your local newspapers, Counties and Cities are going broke.  Many law enforcement agencies are facing severe budget cutbacks, which equates to layoffs of law enforcement officers.  Though the Governor has stated that he will find funding for AB 109, it does not seem logical to shift State services to the Counties when Counties and Cities are struggling to keep their law enforcement agencies adequately staffed to deal with their current workload, let alone the thousands of extra felons that will be dumped on them by the State.

Below is an article that ran in LA Weekly.  AB 109 will make non-revocable parole go away – but will further risk the public’s safety by overburdening Counties and Cities with thousands of additional felons to manage.

Zachariah Timothy Lehnen, Accused in Double Murder of Culver City Pair, Could Have Been in Prison Until 2013 But Was Released Early

By Dennis Romero
published: Thu., May 12 2011 @ 4:53PM
Patrick Healy
Zackariah Timothy Lehmen

Updated after the jump: Some doubt this was an “early” release but still question the level of supervision the suspect had.

The transient accused of killing two people in Culver City this month was let out of prison late last year — with three years cut off his time — via a controversial early-release program.

Thirty-one-year-old Zachariah Lehnen’s parolee information sheet, obtained by the Weekly, shows that he could have remained in prison until November of 2013 but was let out under California’s “non-revocable parole” law, which went into effect last year as an attempt to save taxpayer money by letting low-level, nonviolent offenders out early.

The program has seen other early-release recipients allegedly commit violent acts, including the man accused in last year’s murder of Valley Village bride-to-be Cheree Ozmanhodzic . (In that case her fiancee actually arrived and came across the suspect as he was fleeing).

Lehnen was in prison for drug possession. And, as such, he would have been eligible for the early-release program. Culver City police Chief Chief Donald Pedersen, announcing the transient’s arrest, said he also had domestic violence on his record. That too, however, would not have prevented non-revocable parole.

Thumbnail image for culver city victims.JPG
Patrick Healy
Lucien Bergez and Erica Evelyn Escobar.

The bodies of 89-year-old Lucien Bergez, said to be a World War II veteran, and 27-year-old Erica Evelyn, were found in Bergez’s home near Washington Boulevard and Huron Avenue on May 3 after the elderly man’s maid called police. It happened barely six months after Lehnen’s release.

Lehnen, who reportedly was seen with the two at a 7-Eleven on Washington and apparently knew the victims, is charged with two counts of suspicion of murder with special circumstances — robbery and torture — that would make him eligible for the death penalty.

His parole sheet lists him as a Social Security-collecting, bipolar transient from Hollywood who had to undergo mandatory drug testing as part of his parole.

He was prohibited from drinking alcohol and was listed as in need of regular psychiatric evaluation.

Under the non-revocable parole program, however, police couldn’t automatically jail him with no bail if they suspected he was up to no good — as they would be able too with regular parolees.


[Added]: November 9, 2013 was listed as his “max discharge date,” which means authorities could have held him until then (but it appears unlikely in any case, although her certainly could have stayed a little longer). Some like former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would argue that his not an “early” release (see more below).


[Added No. 2]: A trusted expert called us and denied the notion that this was an “early” release, characterizing it more as an inevitable release that was done under non-revocable parole (which means you can’t be put back in prison for a technical violation) versus regular parole. The point of non-revocable parole is keep prisoners from going back behind bars for small time violations such as testing dirty for drugs versus committing a new crime. Thus, we save some money on the hotel bill.

In Lehnen’s case it’s possible (or not) that he had technical violations that would have put him back behind bars under regular parole.

In any case, his eligibility as a non-revocable parolee should be up for debate.

Some public safety advocates have still characterized the non-revocable parole program as constituting early releases, however.

Authorities picked up Lehnen at 1:30 a.m. on May 5 in a West Hollywood alley.

Public safety advocates, including the union that represents Los Angeles police , have been up in arms over the early-release program, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was all for it in the name of saving the red-ink plagued state some money, described as “no prison releases at all.”

Retired parole agent Caroline Aguirre  told the Weekly the Lehnen case once again proves that early release is a disaster.

“This policy is a dangerous,” she said. “It is a health and safety issue.”

We have a call into Culver City police requesting reaction from Chief Pedersen.

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