IN THE NEWS: San Bernardino County DA castigates ‘liberal’ board after six convicted murderers granted parole

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“Are you kidding me? I mean what’s going on in this state?” Ramos told the Daily Press. “We’re going to have to take back this system.”

Strongly urging the governor to reject their recommendations, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos castigated the California Board of Parole Hearings on Tuesday as liberal agendists after six convicted murderers in this County were granted parole last month.

“Are you kidding me? I mean what’s going on in this state?” Ramos told the Daily Press. “We’re going to have to take back this system.”

With views echoing those conveyed in a one-minute, 52-second video posted to the DA’s office Youtube account, Ramos told this newspaper that his office’s efforts to keep “the worst of the worst” behind bars have become noticeably more difficult in the past three years amid criminal justice reforms.

He said that his team of senior lawyers, part of the Lifer Parole Unit created in 2003 to attend hearings and assist victims’ families, have seen their relationship with the Parole Board deteriorate from working to adversarial.

“Since then, in the last few years, parole hearings have gone absolutely, absolutely horrendously in the wrong way,” he said in the video. “I am sick and tired of a liberal agenda being placed on the backs of victims of crime, especially those who have lost loved ones to murder.”

He also sharply criticized assessment tools for parole consideration, which he said included giving preference to convicts because they were older than 60.

One of six convicted murderers granted parole last month whose crime occurred in this county, Herman Monk, 68, had been convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1992 and sentenced the next year to 26 years to life in prison.

The murder occurred in Lytle Creek, where Monk took Denise Monk to a restaurant, plied her with three to five double-strength cocktails and then took her to a secluded mountain road to a turnout overlooking a steep cliff, according to the DA’s office.

“With their young child watching from the truck, Monk shoved Denise off the 3,500-foot cliff. The fall didn’t kill her,” the office said in a statement. “During trial, the evidence showed that Monk descended the cliff to Denise’s resting place and bashed her head in with a rock as she lay incapacitated.”

Other convicted murderers granted parole included Robert Seabock, who killed a guard in a Chino prison in 1972; Christopher Asay, who robbed and killed an armored car driver in Baker in 1987; Mark Barros, who slit his girlfriend’s throat and stabbed her multiple times in Rialto in 1990; Francisco Villasenor, who shot and killed a person after breaking into their apartment and seeking purportedly stolen drug money either in or before 1993; and Gilbert Colon, who shot and killed a teenager who tried to break up a fight in San Bernardino in 1993 between Colon and his wife.

Ramos added the sheer number of parole approvals here in a single month was indicative of the worsening trend of leniency from the 15 governor-appointed commissioners who work under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman with CDCR, pushed back on Ramos’ assertions, saying the board under the law must assess whether individuals have turned their lives around and they reject parole the vast majority of the time.

“Unfortunately, D.A. Ramos is wrong on the facts and politicizing a serious process that’s been in place in California for more than a century,” Waters said in an email to the Daily Press. “The Parole Board is made up of law enforcement and public safety professionals with decades of experience, including a former prison warden, assistant sheriff, CHP division chief and supervising deputy district attorney, among others.”

CDCR officials say that several factors are submitted into consideration to determine whether an inmate should be granted parole, including whether they pose a current unreasonable risk to public safety.

The board also mulls input from the district attorney and testimony of victims or their next of kin, while also considering the inmate’s behavior during their incarceration.

The board rejects parole roughly 80 percent of the time, officials say, adding that life-term inmates have the lowest recidivism rates of all inmates released by CDCR.

Gov. Jerry Brown will have the ultimate say-so in all of these recommendations.

San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Connie Lasky, who is a member of the County’s Lifer Parole Unit, said the governor’s office will be notified of the grant of parole usually within 120 days and then has 30 days to review and either affirm or reverse each.

CDCR officials added that the board has up to 120 days to conduct a legal review under this process, and only submit the case to the governor if there are no found issues.

Transcripts of the full hearing for each inmate are available one month after the hearings take place.

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SBSUN: To parole or not to parole? Debate sparked after panel says Inland killers have redeemed themselves, should be freed

By Stephen Ramirez | stramirez@scng.com | Inland Valley Daily BulletinPUBLISHED: February 8, 2018 at 11:00 am | UPDATED: February 8, 2018 at 11:22 am

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos believes some crimes are so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be locked up for as long as the law will allow it.

Others, like the California Board of Parole Hearings, believe that some inmates have turned their lives around and deserve to be freed.

The issue came to a head this week when it was announced that the state parole board ruled in January that six inmates convicted of murder should be granted parole.

The case that particularly tested Ramos’ patience is the case of Herman Clint Monk, who is accused of killing his estranged wife Denise in 1992.

At the time, Denise was living in Virginia with the couple’s 2 ½-year-old child, according to a District Attorney’s Office news release. Monk had reached out to her in the hopes of reconciling.

On the night of the slaying, the release said, Herman Monk drove her to a secluded mountain fire road and then shoved her off the cliff in the Lytle Creek area. Evidence at trial showed that the fall didn’t kill her – so Monk climbed down the cliff and hit Denise in the head with a rock.

Also granted parole in January were the following inmates convicted of murder:

  • Robert Seabock, who killed a Chino prison guard in 1972;
  • Francisco Villasenor, who around 1993 shot and killed a victim after breaking into the person’s  Chino apartment to steal back drug money he believed the victim had;
  • Mark Barros, who in 1990 stabbed his girlfriend to death in a Winchell’s parking lot in San Bernardino;
  • Christopher Asay, who killed a driver of an armored car in 1987 in Baker. Asay’s sentence was commuted to 25 years to life in August. In his application for clemency, he wrote: “I know that I cannot change the past, but I can and have done everything within my power to repent and improve myself.” Since being imprisoned, Asay has worked as a reader for the blind and taken self-help programs; and
  • Gilbert Colon, who shot and killed a 16-year-old boy in a San Bernardino apartment parking lot in 1993.

The specific reasons why individuals qualify for parole is not released until their hearing transcripts are made available, which typically is 30 days after their hearing.

The board’s ruling doesn’t mean the inmates will be automatically released. The board must alert the California Governor’s Office within 120 days and the governor then has 30 days to accept or reverse the decision.

‘Very frustrating’

“It’s very frustrating for me as the district attorney, because we work really hard in putting these cases together with law enforcement officers, with my lawyers going to trial and the families (of the victims) suffering through the trials,” Ramos said in an interview with this publication.

“Now you have a … soft-on-crime parole board that is making decisions that I truly believe are on the backs of victims and their families. All for this purpose of emptying out the prisons.”

It’s one thing, Ramos said, when talking about non-serious felons being released because of AB 109, “but when you start using the numbers to release killers … that’s horrible.”

AB 109, passed by California voters in 2011, is a public safety realignment initiative that defers convicted felons of non-serious, non-violent or non-sex-related crimes to be sentenced to county jail and/or non-custodial mandatory supervision, similar to probation. Before, individuals convicted of these types of crimes were sent to state prison.

Adds Ramos, who is up for re-election this year: “These are the cases where I can’t sleep at night knowing that families are suffering, because of these decisions that are being made up in Sacramento.”

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