Lisa, 30 YEARS
The first woman up for a potential re-sentencing in Santa Clara County due to Proposition 36 won her release. A 55-year-old grandmother, Lisa Carter had done 18 years of a life sentence due to the recently reformed 3 Strikes Law. Lisa’s third offense was $150 shoplifting charge. Watch this premiere of the "Time Saved" Documentary Series chronicling the stories of families and public defenders who are working to turn "time served" into "time saved.". The series, which will unfold with stories from across the country, captures in moment footage along the family's journey.
Cesar's family came to De-Bug almost at their wit's end. Their son was nearing the end of his 9 year prison sentence and was facing imminent deportation. During the 9 years, his family had searched for a lawyer, only to be told it was too complicated. However, we helped find a fierce immigration lawyer and advocate in Helen Lawrence to complete our team. "Team Cesar" -- his family, church, and community support -- put together an almost 200 page mitigation packet of Cesar's life; helped find experts for his case; organized community support at hearings; conducted fundraisers for his legal defense. His entire community bonded together to help push for Cesar's release, which resulted in a habeas release granted in criminal court, re-sentencing, and a bond hearing in immigration court that freed Cesar from almost 10 years in custody (almost 9 years in prison, and over a year in immigration detention).
Rudy B., 19 YEARS
Rudy, then 15, was accused of being the mastermind behind a planned felony strong armed robbery. Rudy is developmentally delayed, requires 24 hour care, and doctors say he is mentally at an 5 year old child's level. It was impossible for him to have committed what he was accused of. After being detained by officers at school, he was denied contact with his mother Blanca, even after he asked for her. He was taken to the police station and interrogated for several hours. Officers did not know of his mental challenges, and when Rudy was having trouble answering questions, they asked him if he was using drugs. Blanca and the family secured and reviewed the video with the attorney, pointing out the attempted coercion, and Rudy's difficulty to understand and verbalize.
Given Rudy's special needs, the family was deeply concerned with Rudy's stay in juvenile hall during his court proceedings -- it was the longest he had been away from his family. The family packed the courthouse during his first appearance, and made a strong presentation why Rudy should be released. Once home, Blanca worked with the Public Defender's Office to ensure they were fully equipped with background on Rudy's history, and collectively they advocated for the allegations to be dropped. Rudy no longer faces criminal charges.
Ramon Vasquez, 95 YEARS
Ramon, a 33-year-old father of two, was falsely arrested for a gang-related murder. Ramon had no criminal history, was not at the scene of the crime, and was picked up based on the detective’s matching description of an “average Hispanic male” with a tattoo on his neck and was picked up at gunpoint at his work. Ramon was completely innocent of these charges.
Ramon’s family came to De-Bug’s ACJP once Ramon was detained. On a weekly basis, the family and supporting community members spent hours meeting and scouring over the information they had against Ramon. The group found contradictory statements by police and witnesses, glaring holes in the investigation, and identified how the evidence actually pointed to Ramon’s innocence, rather than guilt. After six months of detainment, the prosecutor then asked the judge to release Ramon, and dropped the charges, “due to insufficiency of the evidence.” Ramon was later granted a "factual finding of innocence," a rarely granted legal device that clears a person’s name and record. The attorney who presented the case said it was the first time in 25 years that he had been a part of one that won.
When Yareli's family came to De-Bug, they were extremely concerned about her after being detained and given an ICE hold due to contact with the juvenile justice system. At that time, she was 16 years old and if deported, would have been separated from her father, mother, two sisters and brother. She allegedly had violated her probation and had accumulated new charges of drunk in public and providing a false name to the police. What was particularly startling about her case was that it was her probation officer who reported her to ICE. What we thought was a mistake by her PO was actually routine practice. In fact, Yareli's case was just the tip of the iceberg and exposed the larger epidemic of probation officers referring juveniles to ICE in San Mateo County.
To support Yareli and her family, De-Bug organizers connected the family with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto that provides free or discounted legal services for low income families, and Yareli's defense attorney. De-Bug organizers and the family worked to make sure Yareli knew the different options available to her, completed necessary paperwork, attended all court hearings, and ensured pro-active communication between her defense attorney and immigration defense attorney so that Yareli's immigration relief possibilities would not be compromised.
While Yareli's ended up spending about 7 months in total fighting between her juvenile and immigration cases in a group home in Los Angeles, she was able to secure her relief and is now back home with her family in the Bay Area, including her new son.