Jerry Brown Appointee Allows Bail for Triple Manslaughter Suspect

Back in 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed David Ashby, 39, as a judge in Sutter County Superior Court, a post that pays an annual salary of $191,612. Judges are expected to administer justice in an impartial manner and guard public safety. Californians have to wonder about Ashby’s performance in a recent felony DUI and triple manslaughter case.

On May 4, Ismael Huazo-Jardinez, 33, was speeding down Highway 113 in the agricultural community of Knight’s Landing. The driver failed to negotiate a curve and smashed his Chevrolet Avalanche into a trailer home, claiming the lives of Jose Pacheco, 38, Anna Pacheco, 34, and their son Angel, who was only 10. The crash also left the Pacheco’s daughter Mariana, 11, with serious injuries.

The drunken Huazo-Jardinez attempted to flee, but neighbors tackled him. The California Highway Patrol arrested the driver on charges of vehicular manslaughter and recommended bail of $1 million or no bail at all. Huazo-Jardinez had a previous reckless driving charge and had already attempted to flee the scene of the crash that claimed three lives. Even so, judge David Ashby ignored the CHP and set bail first at $100,000 then $300,000. Somebody posted bail through McMains Bail Bonds in Oroville, more than 20 miles away and in a different county. Huazo-Jardinez promptly fled but was apprehended on May 7.

By that time, the CHP was still not on record about the suspect’s blood-alcohol content and rate of speed at the time of the crash, information that routinely appears in reports of felony DUIs. Many wondered why judge Ashby would grant parole to an obvious flight risk in a triple manslaughter case. “It would be improper for the court to comment on any pending matter,” wrote Sutter Superior Court CEO Stephanie Hansel in a May 7 email statement.

Jerry Brown is now out of office, and if he had any second thoughts about the appointment of Ashby he did not make them known. In his first term during the 1970s, Brown’s choice for Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court was his former campaign chauffeur Rose Bird, only 40 years old and without judicial experience. In 1986, California voters booted Bird off the court by a margin of 67 to 33 percent. Voters also rejected justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, both appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown, and like Bird soft on the state’s worst violent criminals.