California – In a disturbing trend that seems to be happening more often across the country, another judge in California has declined the recommendations of several key individuals in the criminal justice system and decided to grant probation for a potentially dangerous offender.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder made the decision earlier this week to go against what not only his assistant district attorney’s recommended for sentencing for an individual but also the redocumentations of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Mendocino County Adult Probation Department. Granting probation to 19-year-old Eural Strickland IV after his second-degree robbery conviction in May.
Strickland was one of three individuals who was arrested in connection with a pharmacy robbery that took place in February of this year in Mendocino County. According to news reports Strickland along with Dejoa Larue, 23 and Jakell Watts, 21 were arrested as suspects in a Rite Aid pharmacy robbery.
Willits Police Department released a statement that the three suspects had reportedly jumped the pharmacy counter of the Rite Aide wearing bandanas and demanded pills. Sources indicate that the pills they were looking for were the opioids- oxycodone and morphine. After taking the pills all three suspects fled the scene in a vehicle.
The vehicle was spotted with the suspects inside fleeing the scene. As reported by the Sacramento Bee a Willits police officer and Mendocino County Sheriff’s (MCSD) deputy gave chase, with the suspect vehicle exceeding 100 mph at times. The driver ended up crashing the vehicle, which was later to be determined as stolen out of a neighboring town, and all three suspects attempted to run from police. The officers on scene pursued on foot and all three suspects were taken into custody.
The suspects were taken to the Mendocino County Jail where they were booked on the following charges; suspicion of robbery, evading police with reckless driving, resisting arrest, parole violation, possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.
It was later determined through the investigation by the MCSD that the group “had stolen several thousand narcotic prescription pills with an estimated street value of approximately $50,000.”
According to the Willits News in May of 2019;
The Mendocino County District Attorney’s (DA) office announced Thursday that the three men who stole pharmaceutical drugs from Willits Rite Aid last February withdrew their not guilty pleas and entered guilty pleas to felonious robbery in the second degree and felony transportation of oxycodone and morphine for purposes of sale, said a press release from the DA’s office. The admission of guilt came less than a week before a jury trial was set to begin for the three Sacramento men.
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In this case, Strickland entered what is known as an “open” guilty plea related to the robbery in the second degree.
As indicated by a press release from the DA’s office,
“An open plea means the judge, after considering the sentencing arguments of the attorneys, will decide all aspects of each co-defendant’s final sentence. If granted supervised probation, each co-defendant can be ordered to serve up to one year in the county jail. If probation is denied, each of the co-defendants in this case can be legally sentenced to up to 60 months in state prison.”
The case was reviewed by the Mendocino County Adult Probation Department (MCAPD) which after an investigation into the background of the case determined that it should be considered a prison term case, however they did indicate that more information may be needed to make a final recommendation on sentencing.
The case was given to the the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Strickland underwent a 90-day diagnostic study from the CDCR. Upon his return the study the CDCD concluded that (without factoring in punishment) Strickland should be committed to state prison.
With the new recommendation from CDCR the Court referred the case back to the MCAPD to give their final sentencing recommendations for Strickland. They again agreed that the case involving Strickland be one that should include a prison term. This information was than given to Assistant District Attorney Dale Trigg.
Assistant DA Tigg went before Judge Faulder and maid the argument that explained Strickland poses a significant risks to the community and that all reports and recommendations indicate that he should sere time in prison.
According to the Mendocino County DA’s office,
Assistant DA Trigg emphasized that the plan put in to action by this defendant and the other two out-of-the-area robbers was to hit a pharmacy in a rural area and steal the most valuable, highly addictive opiates that could then be sold on the black market in and around Sacramento for the personal gain of the thieves.
As reported by the DA’s Office After a recess of a single hour Judge Faulder returned and announced;
That he would not be following the studies and recommendations, and would not be following the sentencing recommendation of the Assistant DA. Instead, citing the defendant’s age and “young, not fully developed brain,” Judge Faulder granted the defendant’s application for probation and, again, referred the matter back to the Adult Probation Department for recommendations on terms and conditions of that probation to be received at a future court hearing.
This ruling is a major concern for the District Attorney’s office citing that a matter such as this that can have such strong consequences on the community as a whole should not be taken so lightly.
The District Attorney Eyster was asked for a comment regarding the case and stated that the
“sentencing decision sends the completely wrong message to local criminal elements and those looking in from other areas — that wrong message being that crooks can commit violent crimes in Mendocino County and avoid prison if the henchmen chosen to do “the heist” are relatively young of age.” Eyster went on to state that “Fortunately that message is not one to have previously been communicated around here … until today.” said Eyster.
Strickland’s sentencing is still currently pending and will again be reviewed by the Adult Probation Department.
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