Controversy continues over the more than 200 dismissed criminal cases in Riverside County.
County judges cite a deficit of judges and available courtrooms.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin and Sheriff Chad Bianco responded to the decision, saying they heavily disagree with the decision.
“We have to focus on the crisis at hand and these are real cases with real victims and real people's lives are being affected,” Hestrin explained. "Some of them are serious and violent felonies that are being dismissed by the courts."
Hestrin says by releasing felons, it poses a threat to public safety.
“We're going to have to be vigilant, there's going to be a ripple effect, I mean, word is going out right now that our system is stopped functioning altogether, and that cases are being dismissed," he added. "You know, there may be additional dangers, at least for the short term until we can get past this crisis.”
Since October 10, county judges have dismissed more than 200 cases countywide which include misdemeanors and felonies.
“This should be done on a case by case basis, there should not be a policy of dismissing cases in mass for any reason," Hestrin said. "They've got to weigh the facts and the law in each particular case. And we're asking them to do that and to consider the motions that were filed.”
County judges say the Covid-19 pandemic is to blame for the shortage of judges and lack of available courtrooms. It's also created a backlog of more than 2,800 criminal cases.
"I share others' frustration when a case is not resolved on the merits, or due process is impaired, due to a lack of available judicial resources," Monterosso said in a statement. "The genesis of the current set of circumstances is the chronic and generational lack of judges allocated to serve Riverside County."
Hestrin tells us he understands the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, but believes the cases could be handled better.
“Perhaps we need to consider acting like there's an emergency. Maybe we need longer hours, Night Court or weekend court. My prosecutors will be there, we're ready to try cases anytime.”
Sheriff Bianco also shared some of the same concerns as the D.A.
“We knew when the judges were shutting down courtrooms, we knew this was going to happen because the reality of the world is crime didn't stop. We were still arresting people, people were still committing crimes, and judges didn't want to go to work," Bianco said.
Bianco believes there are better solutions to solve this problem.
“We could also step it up a little bit," he said. "Why aren't the judges staying longer than 5pm? Why aren't they come in before 8am? Why is there a big enough break or too big of a break in the day, put more time into make sure we get through these cases, we all suffered. And there were consequences from what happened. But we now have to deal with those consequences.”