Inmate Ordered Released Due to COVID-19 Concerns Removes Tracking Device, Escapes

Inmate Ordered Released Due to COVID-19 Concerns Removes Tracking Device, Escapes
An Orange County Sheriff's Department vehicle is parked at the Saddleback Station on Sept. 14, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

An Orange County inmate released early due to an ongoing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit escaped mandatory electronic monitoring by removing her device, police said Jan. 19.

The 28-year-old woman was released following a Dec. 11, 2020, court order from Judge Peter Wilson—who is overseeing a lawsuit from the ACLU—to release half of Orange County’s inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He ordered the immediate release of Sandy Gonzalez, and one other individual “to provide the necessary physical distancing and other measures to protect against COVID-19,” said the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD).

P0lice said that given the inmate’s extensive criminal history, she wouldn’t have otherwise qualified for electronic monitoring.

Gonzalez was booked into custody last March by the Fullerton Police Department for felony armed robbery, shoplifting, possession of a controlled substance, child endangerment and resisting arrest.

She was released to the sheriff’s department’s electronic monitoring last Dec. 13, and told to remain at a specified residence and wear a GPS-enabled electronic monitoring device. Police said she was instructed that removing the apparatus would constitute a jail escape.

On Jan. 15, the OCSD unit that oversees the electronic monitoring program received a notification that Gonzalez had removed her ankle monitor and fled.

She was arrested Jan. 16 in Long Beach, returned to the Orange County Jail, and booked on a felony charge of escaping from jail, police said.

“This inmate was in custody for a violent felony of robbery with a firearm, and despite numerous objections was ordered by a judge to be released,” Sheriff Don Barnes said in a press release. “The inmate’s subsequent escape from custody then required a manhunt by numerous personnel to locate her, bring her back into custody and return her to jail, where she should have remained in the first place. The known risks to the community associated with the court ordered release demonstrates a blatant disregard for the public’s safety.”

The OCSD says it has worked extensively to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its jail system. It went from a high of more than 1,200 COVID-19 positive cases in December to 139 cases Jan. 19.

Michelle Thompson is an editor and reporter based in Orange County, California. Her award-winning work has appeared in numerous major Canadian daily newspapers, as well as multiple U.S. publications.
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