Sonora police had a busy Labor Day weekend this year, which officials partially attributed to new laws they say have watered down punishments for certain crimes.
From Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, there were as many as six people arrested on new felony charges, including some parolees and probationers suspected of violating the terms of their release, according to police reports and Tuolumne County Jail booking logs.
“And that’s just a snapshot,” Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson said. “We also had three or four other no bail felony warrant arrests and a few DUIs, too.”
Stinson said it’s typical for there to be a total of only about five arrests, which includes those arrested for warrants and misdemeanor charges.
A convicted sex offender who didn’t have authorization to be in Tuolumne County was arrested by Sonora police the night of Aug. 30 after someone reported he was “acting suspicious” near a business on the 1200 block of Sanguinetti Road, according to a police report.
Robert Bruce Hultsman, 56, whose last known address was in Palo Alto, was booked into Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of violating sex offender registration requirements, a misdemeanor charge of delaying a police officer and a felony parole violation, after he was contacted by police on South Washington Street.
Hultsman is on parole for sex crimes and was wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet, according to the report. He also provided his brother’s name to authorities and had to be identified by his tattoos and parole record, the report stated.
According to the public California Megan’s Law website, Hultsman was required to register as a sex offender for prior convictions of rape and lewd acts with a minor under the age of 14.
On Aug. 31, a Sonora man on probation after recently being convicted of selling drugs in Sacramento County was arrested on suspicion of drug possession and transportation, as well as two felony drug warrants, according to a police report.
Brandon King, 32, introduced himself to an undercover Sonora police officer who was conducting surveillance of drug activity at apartments on the 200 block of Greenley Road and said he was just making sure there were no law enforcement officers in the area, the report stated.
The officer searched King after discovering the two active arrest warrants and found an unspecified amount of heroin and drug paraphernalia, the report stated.
Stinson noted that the conviction that put King on probation was one that would have likely landed him in jail or prison before lawmakers passed AB 109 last year.
The legislation that went into effect last October shifted the responsibility of monitoring recently released “non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual” prisoners from state parole to county probation departments.
It also changed the punishments for many drug and property crimes, making them only punishable by a term in county jail rather than state prison.
“I like to see that they are making arrests, but it’s a double-edged sword,” Stinson said of the recent crime activity. “We know these people won’t be in jail long and we’ll be dealing with them again soon.”
Other felony arrests over the weekend were:
• Brian Bockert, 35, and Amber Hoskins, 25, who were arrested Aug. 31 on suspicion of drug possession with intent to sell after consenting to a search of their 200 Greenley Road apartment that uncovered a half-gram of heroin, four individual baggies of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, drug packaging materials, an electronic scale and $565 cash, Sonora police said.
• Timothy Reis, 19, of Sonora, and Christian Gonzalez, 20, of Jamestown, who were arrested Aug. 31 on suspicion of drug possession and transportation after being stopped in their vehicle for allegedly running a stop sign. The arresting officer searched the vehicle after smelling “a strong odor of marijuana” coming from inside and found hallucinogenic mushrooms, a small amount of marijuana and a butterfly knife, Sonora police said.
A bag of methamphetamine was also found on Gonzalez when he was searched while being booked into jail, according to the report.