Probation officers tried several fixes, the records show. They banned new tattoos. They tested him for drugs and referred him to a treatment program. They sent him to county jail three times between July and December, each time for 10 days. These short stays, called flashes, are designed to provide quick, clear punishments to disrupt bad behavior.
In January 2017, sheriff’s deputies found a baggie of meth in Mejia’s house. He was jailed a fourth time, during which his probation officer moved to revoke the 26-year-old’s probation.
The maximum penalty was six months in jail, but the officer asked for three months, followed by court-ordered inpatient drug treatment. A probation department spokeswoman said such treatment typically lasts up to 90 days.
The prosecutor offered Mejia a plea deal for one month. At a brief court hearing, the judge told Mejia that his probation officer might refer him for outpatient drug treatment when he left jail, but did not order inpatient treatment.
With credit for the time he had already served, Mejia was released two days later, according to county records. He told his probation officer that he was starting a construction job with his dad. He promised to start methadone treatment for heroin use.
A few days later, deputies got a 911 call from Mejia’s house. When they arrived, he ran. They sent him back to jail a fifth time, for another 10 days.
He was released again Feb. 11 of that year. His probation officer referred him for inpatient drug treatment starting Feb. 15. But five days later, on Feb. 20, prosecutors say, he allegedly fatally shot his cousin, stole a car and crashed it.
County mistakes, not reform laws, allowed the alleged killer of a Whittier police officer to go free
Slip-ups by prosecutors and perhaps other county agencies—not the criminal justice reforms that have received so much of the blame—left Mejia at liberty on the day of the killing. County officials had plenty of evidence before them that Mejia ought to have been kept behind bars and then sent to drug treatment, and they had the tools at their disposal to make that happen. They didn’t use them.
Under criminal justice reform laws that have been the target of pointed criticism, probation officers could have sent Mejia to jail for 90 days after he violated the terms of his release. That’s close to the average amount of time for which an offender accused of a similar violation would have been sent to prison after violating his parole under the old system, before AB 109 and Propositions 47 and 57.
In fact, the Probation Department did recommend the full three months in jail, followed by another three months in a drug program. The deputy district attorney, however, agreed to jail time of just a few days.
Violation report assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4454430/Post-Release-Violation-Report.pdf
Revocation hearing assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4454431/Mejia-Hearing-Transcript.pdf
AB109 repeal initiative oag.ca.gov/system/files/initiatives/pdfs/17-0044%20%28Reducing%20Crime%29.pdf