Monday, July 16, 2007

Hulsey's bail reduced


Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa reduced the bail for Heather Lea Hulsey yesterday from $250,000 to $50,000 on the condition that she be released into Casa Serena, a residential treatment center for women recovering from alcohol or drug dependence.
Hulsey, 21, was taken into custody on June 4 when Ochoa raised her bail from $50,000 to $250,000 after the former Santa Barbara City College cheerleader was arrested for public intoxication.
According to county jail records, Hulsey had not posted bail as of last night.
At the June 4 hearing, Ochoa called Hulsey’s drinking patterns a “justifiable concern” for the community.

Prior to Ochoa’s June 4 ruling, he heard Senior Deputy District Attorney Arnis Tolks, the prosecutor in the case, argue that Hulsey posed a threat to the community.
“[Hulsey’s] not someone who should be allowed in the community,” Tolks told Ochoa on June 4. “She’s got a severe, severe alcohol problem. I believe that she needs to be locked up. I believe she needs no temptation with alcohol whatsoever.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, who is sitting in on the case for Tolks, said Ochoa didn’t present any findings to justify his decision to reduce Hulsey’s bail, or say what changed since the June 4 hearing.
Dozer said the prosecution “respectfully disagrees” with Ochoa’s decision.
“We were adamant in our opposition to [her release],” Dozer said. “We feel that Ms. Hulsey continues to represent a danger to the public.
“It was simply a decision by Judge Ochoa. We feel it was not the correct one and we will continue to monitor Ms. Hulsey while she’s out in the public and we hope that she complies with the court orders.”
Attempts by the Daily Sound to reach Hulsey’s Public Defender Mindy Boulet for comment were not successful.
Dozer said Casa Serena is not a 24-hour lockup facility and that the conditions of her reduced bail and possible release are not dictated by the court, or the prosecution.
According to Dozer, Boulet filed a motion for a bail reduction on Wednesday.
He said the premise for the request was based on Hulsey’s participation in an STP (Sheriff’s Treatment Program), which according to the jail’s web site is made available “to provide a supportive, intensive treatment atmosphere where substance-free inmates can begin the hard work and growth necessary to change their lives.”
Dozer said he didn’t know all of the specific conditions in Hulsey’s bail reduction, but said he believed Hulsey will be drug tested frequently during her stay at Casa Serena, which according to its web site requires residents to remain in its program for a minimum of 90 days.
Hulsey’s original $50,000 bail amount stemmed from the death of her neighbor, Dr. Ronald Shlensky, who was struck by Hulsey’s Toyota 4Runner last July 27 while walking his dog in the 700 block of Knapp Drive in Montecito.
Hulsey has pled not guilty to several charges that were filed in connection with Shlensky’s death, including felony hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Hulsey told police she struck Shlensky when she reached down to retrieve her cellular phone from the floor of her SUV.
During Hulsey’s preliminary hearing in March, two of her friends said they were drinking vodka with Hulsey at the Montecito Country Club pool in the hours leading up to the incident.
Hulsey’s public intoxication arrest occurred on May 20 on the campus of UC Santa Barbara and is what spurred Tolks to ask for Hulsey’s bail to be permanently revoked.
On July 2 Ochoa denied a request by Boulet to have Hulsey’s bail reduced. Ochoa instead set a trial date, which is scheduled to begin September 24. Before the trial begins, a restitution and settlement hearing is scheduled for August 20.
“I think that it’s best for Heather if she gets treatment for her alcoholism,” said Shlensky’s daughter, Sheba Laser Lux. “So being in a program is a very good option as long as she is being kept off the streets so she’s not a danger to society.”

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