Glitch goof allow felons to walk away : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Published Thursday, December 9, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

Glitch, goof allow felons to walk away

BY VIRGINIA HENNESSEY Monterey County Herald

Human error and an apparent computer glitch resulted in the release of three convicted felons from the Monterey County Jail, where they were housed after being sentenced to three years in prison in unrelated cases.

The men were still at large late Wednesday. No-bail bench warrants were issued for their arrests.

One of them, Salvador Alegre, was convicted of threatening the widow of a homicide victim in an effort to dissuade her from testifying at the trial of her husband's alleged killers. Alegre, 20, formerly of Chualar, is accused of robbing a Salinas gas station at gunpoint 17 days after his release. A $250,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest in that case.

Lt. Steven Deering, commander of the Monterey County Jail, said the inadvertent releases were the result of ``quirks'' in the computer system that law enforcement officials use to keep track of defendants and convicts. He said electronic communication broke down between the courthouse and the jail, resulting in the releases.

``Welcome to the computer age,'' he said. ``It's everyone's idea to have a fancy computer world where everything is paperless, but maybe it would help us if we had more reports coming from the inmates after their appearances.''

The most recent case also involved some element of human error, Deering said. On Nov. 30, Anthony Grijalva, 19, of Salinas was sentenced to three years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon and given credit for 489 days served. However, when his sentence was entered into the court's computerized Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), a clerk typed the sentence as 365 days.

When Grijalva was returned to the jail for transport to state prison, the CJIS detail told the jail deputies he had already served more time than his sentence, so he was released.

The other two cases, Deering said, illustrate a flaw in the computer system that will be addressed at a meeting Friday between jail and court officials. ``We are going to correct these mistakes and do all that we can to try to avoid them,'' he said.

On Nov. 1, Joseph King, 36, of San Jose was sentenced to three years in prison for forgery. At the time of the sentence, King had been incarcerated on a number of other charges, including burglary and resisting arrest, but was not in custody on the forgery charge. As part of his sentence, the lesser charges were either dismissed or he was sentenced to time served, Deering said.

So when King was taken back to the jail, the computer failed to show the forgery charge, and the remainder of his cases were closed. So he was released.

Similar circumstances surrounded the release of Alegre, Deering said. On Nov. 12, he was sentenced to three years in prison for intimidating Hermelinda Mendez, whose husband, Ignacio Valencia, was gunned down outside his apartment, allegedly by two gang members, after he confronted them outside his Chualar tavern on March 23, 1998.

At the time, Alegre was in custody on a charge of resisting arrest and had never been booked on the intimidation charge. As part of his sentence, the resisting-arrest charge was cleared. When he was taken back to jail, the computer showed no information on the intimidation case, and he was freed.

``Somewhere along the line, the information didn't get down to us,'' Deering said. ``We did not know he was sentenced to prison that day. He was in county jail, but we didn't know he had that case pending.''

Seventeen days after Alegre's release, the A&S Beacon station on the Monterey-Salinas Highway was robbed. Alegre and Mario Ibarra Gonzalez are suspects, according to authorities, and Gonzalez is set to be arraigned Friday.

Deering said he thinks Alegre and the other released inmates could be charged with escape. But, he added, the chances of convicting them probably would be slim.

``It's pretty hard to push for escape (charges) when we opened the door and said, `Have a nice day,' '' he said.

-- Homer Beanfang (, December 10, 1999


Now - this is a change: the computer thought the criminal had spent enough time in jail (365 was typed vice 400 plus days) - and so IT TOLD the jailers to release the prisoner!!!!!

NOW - what will happen to any computerized system that can't calculate dates over the Jan 01 rollover? Over 40% of counties and cities have done NO remediation = so their court and jail computerized records are liable to failure.


I hope that criminals don't read this and start trying to "hack" county jail computerized systems for their "friends" short jail terms..

Just a bump-in-the-pothole-of-liife.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, December 10, 1999.

Won;t someone help Porky in cell block D get home for the holidays.

-- rmoose (, December 10, 1999.

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