The Cal Trans 5 were in court in Salinas this afternoon, but the arraignments were continued until tomorrow at 8:30 am. An attorney for one of the defendants said it was likely not to be heard until 1:30 in the afternoon. A significant outpouring of support showed up in solidarity for the Five from the South Coast of Big Sur, including family and friends, local school officials, and other community members. All told, there were probably at least a dozen people who made the 2 and 1/2 drive to show their support. Two camera crews from local news stations also showed up to cover the proceedings.
Attorney Tom Worthington appeared on behalf of Phil Taylor, the retired Cal Trans employee. Attorney Juliet Peck made a special appearance for Cal Trans Supervisor Danny Milsap. She will also make a special appearance tomorrow. A special appearance simply means that financial arrangements have not yet been finalized between the client and the attorney. The public defender was appointed for the remaining three, but the Public Defender will only represent one of the three, and alternative defenders will be appointed to represent the other two. Those attorneys are likely to be present tomorrow.
The only surprise presented in court addressed why the bail had been set so unusually high.Tom Wothington pointed out that the standard bail schedule for these non-violent, non-serious felonies is usually $10,000 per offense charged. However in this case, a declaration was filed under seal under Penal Code section 1275.1 to allow for the extremely high bail of $1,000,000 each. None of the parties – the DA, the attorney, or the court had seen this sealed declaration.
Either a police officer or a prosecuting attorney must file a declaration under penalty of perjury that he or she had probable cause to believe that the money that may be used to post bail was obtained by fraudulent or felonious means, and therefore, it may be set much higher than the bail schedule allows.
This is just another piece of the puzzle. A million dollar bail requires $100,000 cash. That is the sum alleged to have been involved in the overtime fraud charges by ALL 5 people. So the question in my mind is how a cop or a prosecutor can claim that all four are going to use feloniously obtained funds to post bail when they collectively are only charged with “stealing” enough money to post bail for one? Since no one is yet allowed to see the declaration (although defense attorneys will get a copy) we cannot know the reasoning behind this move by the prosecution. The defendants are entitled to a probable cause hearing on the Penal Code 1275.1 declaration, as soon as their attorneys can be ready for it. In the meantime, a preliminary hearing has been set for May 18th.
This story has lots of layers, which will only be revealed over time. My fear is that the real story will never find its way into the public information system.
UPDATE: 11pm, Tom Worthington was interviewed after the bail hearing and told the reporter that in his opinion this matter was WAY over charged and that he expected these men (and one woman) to be released tomorrow. Interesting. Let’s hope he is right.
I cannot make the 8:30 time frame, but if it is held over until 1:30, I will be there and report back.