A California district attorney and sheriff have slammed the decision to set free two alleged drug traffickers — less than 24 hours after they were nabbed with 150,000 fentanyl pills.
Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, were freed on their own recognizance in Tulare County on Saturday after being booked on charges of possession, transportation and sales of illegal drugs.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward and Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told Fox 26 News they weren’t even informed of the duo’s release until Monday.
“How does this happen without the top two law enforcement officers of the county not even know it?” Ward said.
The sheriff added, “That’s incredibly frustrating for someone who’s responsible for public safety.”
The men were released without bail after a public safety assessment was carried out, which uses an algorithm to examine criminal history and other factors to make a “risk prediction” on whether they’ll reoffend or miss court dates.
Zendejas and Madrigal already failed to show up to a scheduled court hearing on Tuesday, the sheriff said.
“Why aren’t the stakeholders involved in that process? We need to stop thinking that drug crimes are victimless crimes,” Ward said, adding that law enforcement “should have a right to be heard in that process.”
The pair were taken into custody during a traffic stop on Friday when authorities allegedly discovered the 150,000 pills — worth an estimated $750,000 — stashed inside their vehicle.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office was quick to issue a statement Monday distancing itself from the decision to let the two alleged drug traffickers back on the streets.
“All inmates booked into Tulare County jails are sent through what is known as the Risk Assessment Process through the Tulare County Probation Department,” the statement said.
“That ‘Risk Assessment’ is then sent to a judge with the court, who, then, determines whether or not the individual arrested is held on bail or if they are to be released.
“Although Sheriff Boudreaux strongly disagrees with the release of these individuals as a matter of public safety, the court order release must be followed.”