Popular Videos

Don Pedro Reservoir spillway flows over Bonds Flat Road, 521K views (Feb. 20, 2017)

“Git Up Challenge”dance video, 242K views (July 22, 2019)

Sonora Creek surges behind Sav-Mart, 204K views (Mar. 6, 2019)

Deputy races child in Jamestown, 182K views (June 13, 2016)

Fire off Highway 49 in Mariposa County, 118K views (July 19, 2017)

Christmas philanthropy for grandma and children, 50K views (Dec. 25, 2016)

Perp-walk arrests

Amy Emerald, 36K views (July 29, 2019)

John Randall Pauley, 15K views (July 25, 2019)

Mona McGrady, 33K views (May 21, 2019)

Eugene Colis, 16K views (May 19, 2019)

There are 173 videos posted on the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Facebook page, but four are unlike the rest. They show suspects accused of felony crimes being perp-walked by armed deputies.

The decision to post perp-walks on Facebook was not intended to be humiliating to the accused, said Lt. David Vasquez with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. The public has a right to know when suspects are arrested and sometimes videos are the best way to convey that.

“It's the Sheriff’s intent that public safety is the utmost importance. We want people to know that this arrest was made on probable cause and that yes, this person is being placed in custody.”

The perp-walks began with the arrests Eugene Colis on May 19, and was followed by Mona McGrady on May 21, John Randall Pauley on July 25 and Amy Emerald on July 29. Each video is accompanied by a short summary describing the allegations against them.

Posting the perp-walk videos is a recent practice. The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office posted their first video in February 2016.

But some say perp-walks, in any form, are an infringement on the civil rights of the accused.

“Perp walks are a ritual which flies in the face of any notion of innocent until proven guilty, the bedrock of our criminal justice system. Any person appears guilty when handcuffed and paraded between law enforcement officers,” said Jacqueline Goodman, president of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, in a prepared statement.

If you’re one of the approiximately 25,000 followers of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, chances are you've seen them.

Amy Emerald’s video shows her cuffed behind her back. She is chaperoned by two detectives as she leaves the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s investigations office on Cedar Road.

Her booking photo appears after the recording. As of Thursday, the video has 36,000 views.

The perp-walk of John Randall Pauley was recorded at the same location, but from behind him as he enters the office. His video, which also includes a booking photo, has 15,000 views.

Mona McGrady’s perp-walk does not include a booking photo. The video follows a procession of McGrady and four deputies into the Tuolumne County Jail on Yaney Avenue. Her video has 33,000 views.

Eugene Colis was escorted by three deputies after he was arrested on suspicion of possession of a zip gun and a series of warrants in Jamestown. His video includes photos of deputies by a blue car, a photo of the modified firearm and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office emblem.

Emerald, Pauley and McGrady were each arrested on suspicion of sex crimes related to minors.

Vasquez said there was no criteria based on a person’s charges that determined whether a perp-walk was posted to Facebook or not. Instead, one of four media-trained deputies had to be on scene to record the arrests, which doesn’t always happen.

“It's based on who has the training and experience, who is attuned with how our policy reflects how we put information out,” Vasquez said.

The policy is for the videos to be informative rather than pejorative.

“This isn't about shame,” Vasquez said. “We are not taking photos of people in jail cells. We are not taking photos of people handcuffed in the back of a police car or taking videos when there are disgraceful actions.”

But Goodman said the practice was inherently wrong because of the inequity with which it was applied.

“The only purpose of this display is to humiliate the suspect and taint the jury pool… No legitimate law enforcement aim is fulfilled by this public shaming,” she said.

Vasquez argued the court system was equipped to overcome any public prejudice which arose from the videos. He repeated a question asked by attorneys before a trial, “is this going to affect your ability to be a fair and impartial juror?”

“Does jury selection being difficult for the court process override the people’s right to have that information that is public? I think no,” Vasquez said.

The policy has incurred both ire and praise from the public in the over 400 comments posted to Amy Emerald’s video.

Tristan Celayeta of Sonora, a retired forest service employee and United States Army veteran, said the issue was nuanced.

“It walks a razor’s edge between public information and an exploitative type of practice,” he said. “It's interpretive.”

Celayeta responded to a comment on Emerald’s arrest with a link to a California Penal Code section on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

“Why is this law ignored? Advocates of perp-walking understand and reject this, convinced that accusation equals guilt. And... since there is no specific legislation to prohibit public exposure of accused "before" adjudication it is institutionalized in practice,” he wrote.

But Celayeta said the absence of specific information about Emerald’s charges forced him to defer judgment on whether posting the video was the right thing to do.

In the final analysis, he said, the end could justify the means.

“If she's guilty then that's fine and dandy and I don't give a damn about it. But if she's not guilty, then I’m pissed off about it,” Celayeta said.

Vasquez said the videos are produced in public spaces where anyone with a smartphone can do the same thing.

He added, especially with the child sex crime offenses, the videos prompt the members of the public to reach out with tips and insights about the accused.

“Facebook has been an absolute conduit for people to reach out to us,” he said.

Vasquez said the perp-walk videos now have precedent as an established practice. And the overall commitment to videos is emphasized by its increasing utility. In 2016, 18 videos were posted. It rose to 41 videos in 2017 and 47 videos in 2018.

Eight months into 2019, the Sheriff’s Office has posted 67 videos.

And out of 173 videos, the perp-walks are a minority.

The first video posted on Feb. 16, 2016, identified missing person Allen Martin, then a 35-year old man from Modesto, leaving the Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown. As of Thursday, he has not been located.

The topics run the gamut — recent ones advertised the annual law enforcement appreciation event National Night Out and the Smokey Bear 75th anniversary. There are fires, tragedies, photo montages, new deputy introductions, the Mother Lode Parade, weather advisories, requests for public assistance, philanthropy recognition, peace officer memorials and safety tips.

Most accrue a few thousand views.

The perp-walk videos drive eyes to the page — the Emerald and McGrady videos are the seventh and eighth most-watched.

“It's reasonable to infer that social media is an adequate form of communication,” Vasquez said.

Emerald’s video has appeared on the Sheriff’s Twitter as well as television media outlets — KCRA, CBS Sacramento and Fox 40.

Still, the perp-walk videos are dwarfed by the clips that go viral. A deputy dancing the “Git Up Challenge” in Columbia Historic State Park (July 22, 2019) earned 238,000 views and a deputy racing a child down in dirt road in Jamestown (June 13, 2016) earned 182,000 views.

The catastrophic force of Mother Nature is cemented in the top spots.

A torrent of muddy creek storm water blasting into a retaining wall behind the Sav-Mart on Stockton Road in Sonora (March 6, 2019) earned 204,000 views.

The most watched video was posted on Feb. 22, 2017, when a massive deluge gushed from out of the Don Pedro Reservoir spillway over Bonds Flat Road.It has been watched 521,000 times.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.