By Lois Henry
Here's a switch: Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood had to counsel me on limiting law enforcement's power.
Yeah, the irony wasn't lost on him either.
Lois Henry appears on "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your 2 cents in by calling 842-KERN.
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- Woman guilty of lesser charge in texting-while-driving case
- Closing arguments conclude in trial of alleged texting motorist
I had asked if the Sheriff's office has discretion over whether certain inmates do their full sentences rather than getting time off for good behavior.
The particular inmate I was interested in was Anna Marie Reynosa, defendant in the so-called "texting trial."
She refused probation and community service and opted to do her "full" sentence, a year in jail.
A year sounds like a long time (not long enough for killing someone, but still a good chunk of time). With various good time credits, however, Reynosa won't do a year, not even close.
She will most likely be out before Christmas.
Reynosa can look forward to enjoying egg nog -- or magic mushrooms, or whatever -- in the comfort of her loving family.
Meanwhile, her victim, Charla Wilkins, will still be dead at Christmas.
The judge tried everything he could to enhance Reynosa's sentence. He only had so much leeway, however, since Reynosa was convicted of manslaughter with ordinary negligence, a misdemeanor, not gross vehicular manslaughter, a felony.
The District Attorney's office couldn't prove she was texting at the time of the crash, which would have bumped the conviction to a felony.
There was an unfinished text on her phone to "Nick" and Reynosa herself told police a variety of stories about her device, including that she was talking on the phone, was distracted by an incoming text and/or was reading a text.
Without a date and time stamp because she didn't hit "send," Reynosa's defense attorney was able to sow enough doubt in the jury's mind. They could not determine that she was in the act of texting when she ran a stop sign and rammed into Charla Wilkins at an estimated 68 mph.
Given Reynosa's proven disregard for the safety of others with her repeated speeding tickets (one officer said she "drives like a maniac") you and I can surmise that texting while driving was probably second nature to her.
The jury had to make its decision on evidence presented, though, and couldn't say for sure she was texting when she killed Charla Wilkins.
So, the judge worked with what he had -- a misdemeanor conviction.
On June 26, he sentenced her to 220 days in jail, 400 hours community service and three years probation, under the terms of which she couldn't drink alcohol and would have had to be periodically drug tested.
Not being able to booze it up? Drug testing? No way, said Reynosa's attorney.
Not surprising, considering Reynosa couldn't stay out of the bars even while awaiting trial and posted on Facebook about partying it up here, there and in Florida.
Charla Wilkins, by the way, was dead.
On Monday, Reynosa declined probation and community service, where she could at least have begun to make amends to the Wilkins family and the entire community by sharing her story with other young drivers to keep them from the same path.
Uh-uh. Not for Reynosa. She opted instead to do her sentence and move on.
It's nice to have options.
Charla Wilkins wasn't given any options.
Anyhow, Youngblood's answer to me about extending Reynosa's sentence was a qualified "no."
He can't pick and choose which inmates do their full sentences and which get time credits.
Under the California Penal Code, all inmates are given one day of credit for work time and one day for good behavior for every four days served. Reynosa would have to refuse to do assigned work and not follow rules to have those credits withheld. AB109, the prison realignment law, will also increase Reynosa's time credits.
The clock started running for Reynosa when the gavel came down at her sentencing on June 26, which works out to a likely mid-December release.
Beyond the law, Youngblood told me, he's not comfortable with the idea of law enforcement deciding which inmates get more or less time.
The jury ruled, he reminded me. We may not like it, but we have to accept it.
"Beside, I don't know if having her serve more time would make a change," Youngblood said. "She has no remorse. She's shown that.
"I just hope she doesn't kill anyone else."
Accidents happen. People, especially young people, do really stupid things.
It's how a person learns from that, how they face up to it, that matters.
Reynosa may not get it now, but someday she will regret that she partied it up in Florida while Charla Wilkins' family grieved.
She will regret that she spit on the opportunity to redeem herself through community service and refused to at least try and sober up for three years.
Those were her precious second chances. She blew it. Someday she'll figure that out. And then she will know true remorse.
At least, I hope so.