California – Second man released under new Three Strikes law – Serving life sentence for stealing a leaf blower
North County Times – Greg Moran – Thursday, November 29, 2012
EL CAJON — A 55-year-old Tijuana native who has been serving a life sentence since 1995 for stealing a leaf blower became the second person in the state to be resentenced and ordered released under the state’s revised Three Strikes law.
El Cajon Superior Court Judge John Thompson resentenced Sergio Ayala to six years in prison during a brief hearing Thursday. The agreement to get him released was worked out between the District Attorney’s Office and lawyers with the Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy at California Western School of Law.
His release follows that of Kenneth Corley, 62, who became the first beneficiary of changes to the law under Proposition 36, approved by voters on Nov. 6. Corley, imprisoned since 1996, was resentenced and ordered released last week.
Ayala was a long term drug addict who had previous convictions for burglary and attempted burglary before swiping the leaf blower in January 1995. That made him eligible for a sentence of 25 years to life under the original Three Strikes law.
But voters in November approved Proposition 36, which requires a third strike to be a violent offense. Inmates like Ayala serving terms on third strikes that are nonviolent and nonserious can be eligible for release.
The six-year sentence is what Ayala would have received if he had been sentenced under the revised law.
Ayala’s case was already in the works under a program District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis launched before the proposition passed to identify inmates from San Diego serving third-strike sentences on nonviolent charges. When the law passed, the background work for Ayala’s case had been done.
When he is released from state prison in a few days, Ayala will be sent to an immigration jail and then deported to Mexico. At the time of his last conviction he was a legal permanent resident who had come to the U.S. in 1974, according to court records.
Justin Brooks, a California Western professor who worked on the case, said there is family awaiting him in Tijuana who will support him. He said releasing him takes state taxpayers off the hook for paying to keep him in prison until he would have been paroled, or died.
“The taxpayers of California are going to save a lot of money,” he said.
Ayala’s felony convictions go back to 1988 when he attempted to break into a home one night in February. In October, he was convicted of breaking into another home and stealing a VCR and video camera.
Between 1979 and 1992, he racked up 17 misdemeanor convictions for petty theft, driving without a license, having contraband in prison, and drug possession. Brooks said Ayala was a drug addict who committed crimes to feed his habit.
While in prison he did not join a gang but racked up several rules violations, including fighting and testing positive for drugs.
Still, prosecutors did not oppose his release. Deputy District Attorney Gary Schons said the office concluded that Ayala won’t be a danger in the future to residents.
It is unknown how long it will take for Ayala to go through deportation proceedings and be returned to Mexico.
Schons said prosecutors are expecting about 300 Third Strike inmates to ask for resentencing under the law. Not all will be eligible, he said, and the office will oppose those believed to still present a danger if released.
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