Friday, September 12, 2008

Pregnant Hulsey denied access to inmate program for mothers


A program for mothers who give birth while incarcerated in the California prison system denied access to Heather Lea Hulsey, who is roughly nine months pregnant and currently serving a six-year prison sentence for the hit-and-run death of a Montecito doctor.
Hulsey’s rejection from the program could sway Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa to substitute the 21-year-old’s prison sentence with probation, a possibility that Senior Deputy District Attorney Arnis Tolks said the judge alluded to at a special sentencing hearing at the end of June.

During that hearing, Ochoa denied a request by Hulsey’s public defender to grant probation on account of the woman’s pregnancy.
Ochoa concluded that Hulsey would qualify for the Community Prisoner Mother Program, which would allow Hulsey to give birth and live with her child in a group home separate from the prison campus.
However, Ochoa stipulated that if Hulsey was not accepted into the program, that she reappear in his courtroom for another sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Monday.
Tolks said he would once again vehemently fight any attempt by Hulsey’s public defender, Mindy Boulet, to convince the judge that probation is an appropriate sentence.
“I still think it’s wrong,” he said. “I absolutely am opposed to it.”
However, Tolks said he feels Hulsey should have been allowed into the Prisoner Mother Program, and believes the Valley State Prison officials who determined she was not eligible, got it wrong.
While it’s not completely clear why Hulsey wasn’t allowed into the program, Tolks said he suspects it may have something to do with a policy that excludes inmates who contributed to the death of a person.
Tolks said the letter of the law clearly states that inmates who are violent offenders can’t be allowed into the program, a mold he doesn’t believe Hulsey fits.
“This was not a violent crime per se,” he said. “It was not an intentional crime. It happened because she was under the influence and negligent.”
If Hulsey remains in prison, Tolks said she must either turn her child over to a family member, or put it up for adoption.
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 a person was injured.
Testimony during a preliminary hearing showed that Hulsey got into her SUV on July 27, 2006 after several hours of drinking 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.
The nearly two-year saga that followed included a pattern of repeated drinking on behalf of Hulsey, who prior to being sentenced, was arrested at UC Santa Barbara for public intoxication on May 20, 2007.
Ochoa responded by raising bail, which forced Hulsey behind bars until the judge reduced her bail after the woman spent more than a month in county jail.
At that point, in July 2007, Hulsey was released on condition that she enter Casa Serena, a local residential treatment facility. Boulet told the court in July that Hulsey was impregnated after becoming sexually involved with a fellow participant in a recovery program there.
During the special sentencing hearing two months ago, Boulet said the court wasn’t notified of the pregnancy earlier because Hulsey felt the stress from the case had forced a miscarriage.
News of Hulsey’s possible release from prison wasn’t taken lightly by Shlensky’s daughter, Sheba Laser Lux, who said she feels releasing Hulsey simply because she is pregnant would be a “slap in the face” of the criminal justice system.
“People need to know if they commit crimes and they’re given a sentence, they need to serve out their sentence,” she said.
Lux said she is particularly concerned with the message a reduced sentence, in this case solely because Hulsey is pregnant, sends to other women facing incarceration. On the surface, she said it would appear to be an effective way of avoiding serving time.
“What does it say about our justice system,” Lux said. “That it only applies to non pregnant people?
“It really, in my mind, is ridiculous.”
And while the nature of Hulsey’s crime wasn’t of a violent nature as Tolks said, Lux insisted it still resulted in the death of her father, and Hulsey chose to get behind the wheel.
“We’re not just dealing with somebody who’s had an accident and killed somebody,” she said. “We’re dealing with somebody who knew she was drunk, got in her car and killed somebody.
“This is somebody who time and time again has chosen to do the wrong thing and the immoral thing and will not take responsibility for her actions.”
Hulsey is scheduled to appear in Ochoa’s department 1 courtroom at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.
Calls to Boulet seeking comment were not immediately returned to the Daily Sound.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She's considered too dangerous for a PRISON PROGRAM! so the judge might let her out?????