On February 1, a Sonoma County inmate sentenced under the three-strikes law, Jeffrey Michael Porter, was granted a release following the passage of Proposition 36 in November, which is a revision of California’s three-strikes sentencing law. Porter was the first inmate in the county to win such a release.
A Santa Rosa man is also seeking freedom after being convicted in 1998 of possession of stolen property. Dale Curtis Gaines had a long rap sheet, although he never committed a violent crime or got caught distributing drugs. Gaines was imprisoned a few times for crimes he allegedly committed going back to 1986 involving burglary, but has never to anyone’s knowledge committed a violent act. Because of his past criminal activity, being found guilty of possession of stolen property in 1998 was considered his “third strike,” leaving Gaines facing 27 years to life behind bars.
Gaines, who is 55 years old, is one of the next inmates up for resentencing according to the Press Democrat. News reports indicate that about half a dozen Sonoma County inmates are seeking to be freed from prison following the passage of Proposition 36. Under the new law, individuals with past convictions must be found guilty of a “third strike” offense that is particularly violent or serious to be sentenced to the harshest penalties.
Michael Romano, director of Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, told the media that Gaines is “certainly not a threat to public safety,” and that he believed that Gaines could become a successful member of the community if granted an early release. A legal team from the school will likely file a request to have Gaines’ sentence reduced; the team has also been working on having Gaines released since last year on grounds that he suffers from mental illness, a fact that was not revealed during Gaines’ trial by his attorney.
Proposition 36 was supported across the state of California, and won by an overwhelming margin as residents felt that extremely harsh punishment for individuals who had not committed violent or serious offenses on a third strike was simply causing the prisons to become overcrowded with non-violent offenders.
This is good news for Santa Rosa criminal defense attorneys who have long known that California’s three-strikes law was over the top, leaving individuals accused of committing non-violent crimes facing extremely harsh punishment, while taking up space in prison that should be reserved for violent offenders.
If you have been convicted of a serious crime or are under investigation, do not hesitate to take action. Consult with a skilled Santa Rosa criminal defense lawyer right away, so that work can begin on your case.