SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A suspect arrested in connection with last weekend’s mass shooting outside bars near the California State Capitol has served less than half of his 10-year sentence due to voter-approved changes to state law that lessened the punishment for his crime. convictions and offered a chance of early release.
Smiley Allen Martin was released in February after serving time for hitting a girlfriend, dragging her out of her home by her hair and whipping her with a belt, according to court and prison records. These are considered non-violent offenses under California law, which only considers about 20 crimes to be violent crimes – things like murder, rape, arson and kidnapping.
Martin, 27, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a submachine gun. He is among 12 people injured in Sunday’s shooting, which left six people dead. Police say the violence was a shootout between rival gangs in which at least five people fired weapons, including Martin’s brother, Dandrae Martin, who was also arrested.
Smiley Martin would typically have remained behind bars until at least May after serving at least half of his sentence for his previous arrest in 2017, but prison officials evidently used a very broad approach to applying time credits to his pain, said Gregory Totten, general manager. California District Attorneys Association officer and former Ventura County District Attorney.
“They’ve been given very broad authority for people on early release and giving them extra credit and all kinds of consideration in an effort to reduce the length of time someone is serving,” Totten said.
Corrections officials did not dispute that Martin was among thousands of inmates receiving supplemental credits that expedited his release under state law. But they said their policy prohibits disclosing any credits Martin received.
They cited appropriations via Proposition 57, the 2016 ballot measure that was intended to give most felons a chance at early release. Credits have also been widely authorized to bring down the prison population during the pandemic.
Proposition 57 credits include good behavior, though corrections officials won’t release Martin’s disciplinary report. Good behavior credit is supposed to be reserved for inmates who follow all rules and complete their assigned duties.
The state “has implemented various credit-earning opportunities to incentivize incarcerated individuals to behave well and participate in programs, including those created under Proposition 57 – which was overwhelmingly approved. majority by voters,” corrections spokeswoman Vicky Waters said in a statement.
Supporters, including former Gov. Jerry Brown, who lobbied for Proposition 57, say it’s important to give inmates a second chance. The possibility of early release encourages inmates to participate in education and other rehabilitation programs, while helping to reduce mass incarceration.
“The most recent reforms in California seek to change a culture that has created problems with recidivism for generations,” said Will Matthews, spokesperson for Californians for Safety and Justice, which has backed the changes. “The question we need to ask ourselves is: how do we engage in behavior change?”
Under Proposition 57, there are credits for completing rehabilitation or educational programs, self-help and voluntary public service activities, obtaining a high school diploma or of higher education and the accomplishment of a heroic deed. Officials added credits during the coronavirus pandemic, including 12 weeks of credit that applied to most inmates.
Martin was denied parole in May 2021 under California’s process for allowing nonviolent offenders to seek early parole, after a letter from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office. Prosecutors objected based on his lengthy criminal record and said Martin “clearly had little respect for human life and the law.”
Six months after turning 18, Martin was arrested in January 2013 with an assault rifle and two fully loaded 25-round magazines, prosecutors said. Months later, he fired a Walmart clerk for stealing computers worth $2,800, they said. In 2016, he was arrested on parole. And less than six months later, it was the attack that sent him back to prison.
It’s unclear if Martin has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.
Martin pleaded no contest and was sent to prison for bodily harm and assault causing grievous bodily harm in January 2018 as part of a plea deal in which the kidnapping charges – considered as a violent crime – and intimidation of a witness or victim were dismissed.
The sentencing judge awarded Martin 508 days of credit for time he served in the Sacramento County jail before his sentencing, based on a California law that allows judges to double time actual time spent in jail, which in Martin’s case was 254 days.
Martin also had “a variety of additional post-sentence credits,” which Corrections Department spokesperson Dana Simas said were awarded for time served while awaiting transfer to state prison from county jail. .
Before Proposition 57, he would have qualified for 20% ‘good time’ credits – meaning he could cut his time on duty by a fifth – but corrections officials used their authority under the ballot measure to raise them to 50%. The pending regulations opposed by most district attorneys in the state would further increase good time credits to two-thirds of a sentence for such repeat offenders.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a progressive Democrat who previously led the state Senate, was among those upset when he learned of Martin’s record.
“If people have a history of violent acts and they haven’t shown a propensity or willingness to change, I don’t think they should come out on the streets,” he said during from an event where officials requested more than $3 billion from the state to expand crime prevention programs.
Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen, who once headed the state parole board, said “good time” credits are usually granted automatically, without inmates having to do anything to earn them.
“It gives them a huge opportunity to free up beds,” said Nielsen, an opponent of earlier versions.
The state has relied on these efforts, particularly its powers under Proposition 57, to keep the prison population below the level required by a panel of federal judges who ruled that inmate overcrowding had led to unconstitutional conditions.
Martin was released under the supervision of the Sacramento County Probation Department in February. County probation officials did not provide the terms, saying their records are not public records.
Without discussing Martin’s case, Karen Pank, executive director of the California Chief Probation Officers, said that in general, a person released from prison on post-release community supervision with an extensive and violent criminal history would likely have been treated. on a “high risk” workload. .
This would subject him to more intensive supervision, including the requirement to see his probation officer more frequently and in person, although individualized decisions about risk and needs are made and treatment and services continue to be provided. offered.
Hours before Sunday’s shooting, Martin posted a Facebook Live video of himself brandishing a handgun, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the shooting investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pank said if there is evidence that a criminal is in possession of a firearm, it can be grounds for an offence, which can result in a prison sentence. However, it is unlikely that anyone from law enforcement could have acted in time even if they had seen the video.
“The big if is that they would have known,” Totten said. But in this case, “it didn’t matter – it was so close to the time” of the shooting.
Associated Press writers Adam Beam, Stefanie Dazio and Michael Balsamo contributed to this story. Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Balsamo from Washington, D.C.