Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Judge reduces Hulsey sentence to probation

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

Seven months after sentencing Heather Lea Hulsey to a six year, four month prison sentence for the hit-and-run death of a Montecito doctor, Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa yesterday reduced the woman’s sentence to probation.
The judge cited Hulsey’s pregnancy, a factor unknown to Ochoa at the woman’s February sentencing hearing, and her disqualification from a prison-operated program for inmates who give birth while incarcerated, as justification for his ruling.


Hulsey, whose due date is Sept. 21, broke into tears as the judge recalled the sentence. Her family, who has been present for many of the hearings, also left court crying.
“It was the right decision,” said Hulsey’s public defender Mindy Boulet. “[Hulsey] just thought they were going to take the baby away from her.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Arnis Tolks told the judge, as he had during previous hearings, that he felt the Hulsey case clearly warranted a prison sentence. He said anything less would set a dangerous precedent, essentially telling any woman facing a prison term that an effective way out is to get pregnant.
“I think it sets a terrible precedent that a defendant can get pregnant and avoid a [prison sentence],” he said, adding that he found it shocking that Hulsey is getting “rewarded for one last irresponsible act of getting pregnant.”
Tolks told the court some have speculated that Hulsey became pregnant on purpose as a last-ditch effort to avoid serving time, and given her past behavior he said, “I don’t doubt it.”
However, Boulet vehemently denied Hulsey did any such thing.
“It’s completely outrageous,” she said when asked if Hulsey could have become pregnant on purpose. “She’s been absolutely terrified since she found out.”
Hulsey pleaded no contest to two felony charges last December, one for vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol and the other for fleeing the scene of an accident knowing that person was injured.
Testimony during a preliminary hearing showed that Hulsey got into her SUV after several hours of drinking on July 27, 2006 at the Montecito Country Club, and struck Dr. Ronald Shlensky, 71, as he walked his dog near his home. Hulsey kept driving and avoided arrest until Aug. 7.
Tolks pointed out that during the year-and-a-half between Hulsey’s initial arrest and her sentencing, the 21-year-old repeatedly showed she was incapable of being responsible.
He cited a string of alcohol-related incidents involving the former Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara cheerleader, which included pictures of her drinking on a MySpace.com page and an arrest for public intoxication on May 20, 2007.
The prosecutor also said he felt Hulsey’s attempts at covering up the crime by allowing her father to take the SUV to an auto repair shop, and her effort to initially blame someone else for hitting Shlensky, as clear reasons for her to remain in prison, baby or not.
“What made her case so outrageous was everything that happened after it, when she wasn’t drunk,” Tolks said.
Hulsey apparently became pregnant while residing at Casa Serena, a local residential treatment center. Boulet told the court in July that Hulsey was impregnated after becoming sexually involved with a fellow participant in a recovery program there.
In July, Ochoa considered a request by Boulet to recall the sentence and grant probation on account of the pregnancy.
But after being assured by state prison officials that Hulsey would qualify for the Community Prisoner Mother Program, which would have allowed the woman to serve out her sentence with her child away from prison grounds, the judge denied the request and directed Hulsey to apply.
However, last week officials at Valley State Prison, an all women facility Hulsey had been sent to, denied the application.
Tolks said the officials did so due to a provision that disqualifies anyone who contributed to the death of another person.
“Because a death occurred, they didn’t want her in the program,” he said.
Tolks said he disagreed with the prison’s decision, and that he felt Hulsey qualified in part because the events surrounding Shlensky’s death weren’t violent.
Ochoa and Tolks both expressed frustration with the prison system, which had apparently led the judge to believe Hulsey was shoe-in for the program.
“It’s disturbing the Department of Corrections office gave me inaccurate information,” Ochoa said. “That is very, very troubling.”
Before recalling Hulsey’s sentence, he said it was his intention for Hulsey to serve out her sentence in the prison-run system, but since that isn’t possible, he would grant probation.
Ochoa said a similar program proposed by Boulet called Prototypes: Centers for Innovation in Health, Mental health and Social Services, would provide residential treatment for Hulsey for up to a year. After that, Boulet said she suspected Hulsey would participate in a sober living facility for an additional two years, or roughly the same amount of time she would have been in prison after being granted half-time credits.
But regardless of whether the Prototypes program is similar to the prison program or not, Tolks said the bottom line is Hulsey should be serving out a prison sentence, not living in a facility that’s a condition of probation.
Attempts to reach officials at Prototypes for more information about the programs offered there weren’t immediately successful.
The Prototypes Web site says it is a non-profit that was founded to aid women and their families with complex issues such as substance abuse. The Web site says the program serves more than 15,000 women each year in Southern California.
Had Ochoa sent Hulsey back to prison, she would have had to either put her baby up for adoption, or turn it over to family.
Either one would have been fine with Tolks.
“I disagree with the judge, respectfully, that somehow she has the right to keep the baby,” he said.
Tolks said it’s not unusual for women with children to go to prison, but he’s never seen a sentence recalled simply because a woman is pregnant.
Shlensky’s daughter, Sheba Laser Lux, said Ochoa could end up regretting his decision to recall the sentence because other women may get pregnant to avoid their own sentences.
“The message is pregnancy gets you out of prison,” she said. “In Santa Barbara County women are going to get pregnant to get out of prison time.”
Ronald Movich, a family friend of the Shlensky’s, said he felt Ochoa’s decision raises equality issues, since a man in Hulsey’s situation would still be sitting in a prison cell.
“I can’t get pregnant and get out of prison,” he said.
Boulet said Hulsey would likely be released from jail today. The exact conditions of Hulsey’s probation, aside from living in the residential treatment facility for at least a year, weren’t available as of press time.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is very wrong...she should stay in prison or go back after the baby is born.

It is like giving her no sentence!!
Why did the judge do this?

It was a long sentence for terrible actions..now no sentence!!

..Mark

Anonymous said...

Oh great. The message to criminals: if you want to avoid a prison sentence: become pregnant!

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely outraged. This is mind boggling. What is Ochoa thinking? This is justice? What can we do? Can the prosecution appeal? Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

you do realize that its a win win situation for everyone. if heather messes up while in probabtion she must serve the whole years in prision, and since i can tell that most of you who leave comments on here dont know heather, and are still obbssed with this story after 3 years, she has changed and the probation will be completed , and she will be an amazing mother. Also, Tolks, getting pregnant is not a crime, anyone can get pregnant, that is how the world cycles, but ill make sure and make note the next time anyone gives birth. ha. also, all of you who leave comments, we know you are not perfect, no one is, that is why heather has been going through this for two years, she had a problem, but is now a changed person, and no one but her friends and family know her. your biased opinions are rude, and dont make sense. the probation is the same one that they use from prision. its the exact same thing, she cant leave the place, and is in there for the same amount of time. there is no difference. she will be there the same amount of time.also, heather is not a criminal, and if your going to speak of her like that ( anonymous) you should state your name. she is a person who made a mistake. you cant say she has no feelings are regards to what has happened. heather lost a sister at a young age because of an illness, therefore she knows what a tragedy it is . she will never forget, whether behind bars or on probation. i think we should commend heather for keeping her baby, and taking responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Outrageous! She killed a man! Not only that - she left him on the side of the road dying and didn't even seek help for him. How different would the outcome have been for Ron Schlensky if she had called 911 and TOLD THEM what she did to him so that doctors could have treated his injuries right away instead of wasting time trying to figure out what the hell had happened to him?!
Great message to send; especially to all the little girl gangbangers in town -- if they start stabbing each other to death, they only need to get pregnant to avoid jail! Yipee!

Anonymous said...

I think the judge should be recalled.

Anonymous said...

This is horrible! The judge has done a huge injustice to the family of the victim.

By this action he has elevated the Hulsey family and her and takin the victim's family to lowest point possible. It is absurd!

He was so fair before but why did he do this? The trial has been completely ignored!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:18 - How DARE you come on here and belittle what this woman did. "Heather is not a criminal" OH YES SHE IS. Last time I checked, it was a CRIME to drink under age, a CRIME to drive drunk, a CRIME to leave the scene of an accident and a CRIME to kill someone. I don't know what planet you live on, but do us all a favor - take sweet heather there so the rest of us can go on an evening stroll in our neighborhood and not be mowed down by her after a day of binge drinking.

Anonymous said...

The comment that started with "win, win" is ignoring the seriousness of this crime. She did not shop-lift!!

This writer is totaly minimizing
Hulsy's actions. Probably a lot of inmates change after 7 months in prison, but they are not just let out like this.

People are asking-why did the judge do this?

Anonymous said...

Tolks should challenge Ochoa for judge in the next election.

Anonymous said...

To the person that left the comment at 10:18 am... I would commend her if she took responsibility for the fact that she killed a man and did her time point blank. I speak from experience on this exact topic my family went through this and had to see a family member off to prison (10 years) for the same crime although they DID not run away from the scene but tried to help and was in turmoil that they hurt another person. They did not run, they did not 'fix' their car and tamper with evidence. This goes to show that she has no remorse for what she did, just scared that she would get caught. It pisses me off to no extent that this moron gets no sentence when people that have been in the exact same position get sent to the worst prisons in California. I hope the family lawyers APPEAL the decision, she gets her baby taken away from her and put in a home with someone that has half a brain and she sits alone in a cell. 6 years? with all the evidence against her?!?!!? Try 10 the MAXIMUM! = JUSTICE SERVED

Anonymous said...

if she was such a changed person, she would not have gotten wasted and then pregnant, prior to her sentencing. being sentenced to prison will make a lot of people change. the action of killing someone, and not getting punished does not change anyone.

I give her 2 years before she breaks her probation. I am guessing it will be for another DUI, and this time the kid will be in the car. where will her supporters be then????

Anonymous said...

are you serious, what in the world are we coming to. they are supposed to be using our tax dollars to keep murderers, killers, rapist, drug dealers, ect in prison. so now all you young girls if you make a mistake like this one remember to make sure you get pregnant, it worked for her it can work for anyone right.......wrong it worked for her because she white and has money, all you minorities dont try this i doubt it would work, im sure they would keep you in prison and take your baby. thats just how this world works. really what kind of message is being sent out! this girl left a man to die, he is no longer here with us she could have done a lot to help him after she killed him while being irresponsible. she knew exactly what she was doing when she just simply drove off and left him there to die. you people are making a huge mistake she should root in prison! beleive me i know what its like to loose someone you love more thananything in this world so i sympathize with the victims family. i can bet anything she gets out has her baby and drinks and drives again.

Anonymous said...

Remember Ashley Johnigan killed Laura Cleaves while driving drunk in May?

The judge set the next court date in the case for Sept. 17, at which time a preliminary hearing is expected.

If she can get knocked up, will she too avoid Prison?

Doubt it, she's Balck

Anonymous said...

why are all of you obbsessed with this story after 3 years. by the way heather is not a criminal, heather has never been proven guilty. she did drink and drive. i do give her that, however, the man was not dead and did not die until days later. ... after the wife decided to pull the plug on him. which is a true statement, unlike the garbage you all read and choose to belive. only the people involved, and the friends and family no the truth. i would love for any of you to be put in her situation, cuz we all know none of you are perfect, and prisions may be the justice thing to do , however, if you were to investigate any other case , as much as you do this one, you can see that the majority of the people who go to prision for 3 years or so, get out, commit another crime and go back. so how does prision help.??? also, its not a crime to get pregnant.


anyways, nothing can change now, heather has probation, and thats the end of it, so stop carrying so much after 3 years. she wont let herself, her family, her friends, or the judge down.... but im sure since you all follow this so much you will know.


also, there was a women right before heather's inciddent in which she fled from the scene and killed 4 people. she has yet to ever serve a day behind any bars... research that one for a change!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:18, you are either extremely misinformed, or a liar. Because of your callous disregard for this man's life and your blatant lies regarding when and how he died (it was during the night, before his wife who was rushing home from the East Coast could get there - there was no plug pulling)I am entirely inspired to do EVERYTHING in my power to see that that murderess stays in prison. With friends like you - who needs enemies? You make me sick and so does your friend. And BTW, it was two years ago, not three, and why do I still care? Because Ron Schlensky was my friend and neighbor and I will never forget what a kind, good and endearing man he was. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I think judge ochoa is crazy to give this women probation. What a slap in the face to Mr. Shlensky’s family. I can't even imagine the pain of knowing someone you love was struck down by a car and then left to lay their. She did not come forward and then when she is in a program she gets pregnant. I bet that one would of landed her butt back in jail since it is probably against the rules of the program. That is probably why she hid the fact she was pregnant during the trial. Whether you know her or not her lack of character is visable and I can't imagine any time in prison would of helped that. I just hope the family sues her for damages and she has to remember what she did every month that she pays.

Beth said...

Bantering aside, I always found it ironic that Hulsey was a psychology major in college and ran over a prominent Psychologist. I am sure she will be switching her major.

Anonymous said...

Beth - Dr.Ronald Schlensky MD was a prominent Psychiatrist (and an attorney as well, I believe), which is not the same as a Psychologist. The former is a Mediacl Doctor, the latter isn't.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna offer stud service in SB county,getting refferals from PD office and send kickbacks to Judge Ochoa.It's a win-win-win situation.

Anonymous said...

This is not a "win, win" situation. Are you crazy?!! A man is dead, because of another persons irresponsible behavior. She could have called for help right when it happened. She could have turned herself in the next morning. She tried to cover it up. And then to add to her irresponsible manner, she went and got pregnant while in a "rehab" center. Come on, whose winning here. I'm sure the family of the victim do not feel like winners, regardless of the outcome of the sentencing, they will never have their family member back, and on top of that, justice was not served. My little brother is dead by the hands of another man, he received 25 to life, and no, I don't feel like a winner because the murder is in jail, because I will never have my brother back. I'm sure the family of the victim in this case feels the same. I feel it is insensitive to the victim and his family to state such a ridiculous comment. A rehab center is not prison, and when you murder somebody, wheter voluntary or involuntary, you should be removed from society and not allowed the joys of life that you have stolen from someone else. Now this murderer, because that's what she is, will be allowed to have her child, and enjoy the beauty of that experience. This is just so wrong on so many levels. I very rarely use the race card, but how else could this judge have come to such a decision other than "green and white"?

Anonymous said...

First of all, we still care because her sentencing is a new issue. Second, if she made such a big deal about still being in a relationship with the father, why was she so afraid of her baby being taken away from her, and couldn't he have taken care of him or her? Plus, she's proved she's barely capable of taking care of herself, let alone a baby.

Anonymous said...

An egregious act by the judge on many levels. Members of our society need to be held accountable for their actions. Ms. Hulsey has shown her disrepect for another human being and been manipulative and deceitful with the authorities. Her reward is probation. It's a sad day in Santa Barbara.

Anonymous said...

“Because a death occurred, they didn’t want her in the program". So the answer is to release her back into society? Outrageous!

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that the day the decision was made to give her probation there was no news of it on KEYT. Could that be because Paula Lopez (wife of judge Ochoa) was anchoring the news???

Anonymous said...

Hey family member of Hulsey's where is your name ???hmmm. Are you aware one of the rules of a sober program is not to have sexual relations and show up for drug testing ? She could of least used birth control. I think keeping this child is the ultimate of selfisness. What kind of life is she sentencing this child to without time to get sober, have a job, financial stability etc. This woman has never shown an ounce of remorse for anyone but herself. The whole family is morally bankrupt. Please go back to Texas. We don't want you here.

Anonymous said...

omg you are all too obbssessed with this story. only the families and friends know the story.

he has a better life where he is now.
he will be greatly missed and we loved him while his time was spent here, and will continue to, however, hating someone is not going to bring a person back.

Anonymous said...

IMPEACH JUDGE OCHOA!IMPEACH
DR. SHLENSKY FAMILY SUE THE FAMILY ON A CIVIL LEVEL. THESE PEOPLE ARE FROM TEXAS NOT MONTECITO...ANIMALS
AS A BORN AND RAISED Santa barbara native...we must impeach Judge ochoa...call for impeachment!!!!
recall

Anonymous said...

my girl friend had a house fire when she was a child and her younger brother did not make it out. she did not become a murderer and a drunk...she became a pillar of the community ..stop giving excuses for this animal to murder and deceive ...we all have our stories to tell!!!bill o'reilly should be contacted.
he is a victim's advocate for this kind of injustice imposed by judges demonstrating his lack of judgement. please someone contact him. He will go after ochoa on the air and send a producer to interview him.
i am writing a book called "HEATHER HULSEY OF TEXAS GOT AWAY WITH MURDER AND JUDGE OCHOA OF SANTA BARBARA HELPED." ALL THE COURT TRANSCRIPTS WILL BE PUBLISHED. AND ALL OF THE LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE COURT. WHEN SHE WAS IN CASA SERENDA..SHE DID NOT ABIDE BY THE DRUG TESTING.NOT STOPPING TO HELP WHEN SHE HIT HIM.HER FATHER TOOK HER CAR TO BE FIXED OUT OF TOWN BUT THE LAW SEIZED IT BEFORE IT WAS DONE. THE SHE WAS ARRESTED AT UCSB DRUNK AFTER SHE MURDERED OUR DR. SHLENSKY.
THEN A PRODUCER WILL MAKE A MOVIE AND RELEASE A SEQUEL YEAR AFTER YEAR.