On March 29, California governor Gavin Newsom denied parole for Leslie Van Houten, 72, involved in murders committed by followers of Charles Manson in 1969. On April 3, six people were killed and 12 wounded in a mass shooting in downtown Sacramento. The two events are related, but not in the way Californians might suspect.
In the wake of the April 3 massacre, police arrested Dandre Martin and his brother Smiley, who was in possession of a machine gun. Both suspects are African American, both have criminal records, and both were released early from prison.
As the Sacramento Bee reported, Smiley Martin has a record stretching back to 2013, and last year Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert opposed early release from his 10-year sentence for domestic violence and assault with great bodily injury. Hours before the April 3 shooting, Martin appeared in a Facebook video brandishing a handgun.
Dandrae Martin was released from jail in Arizona in 2020 after serving one and a half years on a probation violation. That violation stemmed from a 2016 guilty plea in an aggravated assault. The younger Martin pleaded guilty to punching, kicking and choking a woman who refused to work for him as a prostitute.
Sacramento police also arrested a third suspect, Daviyonne Dawson, 31, seen carrying a firearm in the aftermath of the shootings. As people emerged from bars, the shooters fired more than 100 rounds, killing three women: Johntaya Alexander, 21; Melinda Davis, 57; and Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21. The three men killed were Sergio Harris, 38; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; and Devazia Turner, 29.
Gov. Newsom’s 119-word statement twice decried “gun violence” but named no victims or suspects. The “mass casualty shooting,” Gov. Newsom said, was a “terrible tragedy.” The statement contained no pledge to find the criminals responsible for the murders, and keep such killers off the streets.
Newsom is on record that “there’s no greater political mind in our lifetime than Governor Brown,” a reference to recurring governor Jerry Brown, who twice denied parole to Van Houten. In similar style, Newsom uses a high-profile case to pose as a tough-on-crime governor. The record shows otherwise.
One of Newsom’s first actions as governor was to reprieve 737 convicted murders on California’s death row, the worst of the worst. He also failed to show up for events honoring Ronil “Ron” Singh, a police officer shot dead in late 2018 by an Mexican national with gang connections, illegally present in the United States, and protected from deportation by California’s sanctuary law. For some reason, this particular murder did not launch a crusade against “gun violence.”
For all their savagery, the Sacramento shootings and Manson murders are far from the worst in California history. That distinction belongs to previously deported Juan Corona.
In the early 1970s, Corona murdered and mutilated Charles Fleming, Melford Sample, Donald Smith, John J. Haluka, Warren Kelley, Sigurd Beierman, William Emery Kamp, Clarence Hocking, James W. Howard, Jonah R. Smallwood, Elbert T. Riley, Paul B. Allen, Edward Martin Cupp, Albert Hayes, Raymond Muchache, John H. Jackson, Lloyd Wallace Wenzel, Mark Beverly Shields, Sam Bonafide and Joseph Maczak.
Four others were not identified and not a single victim was Mexican. All but three were white American workers and the others black or Native American. By all indications, nobody wondered whether Corona might have been motivated by racism. Politicians did not blame the knives and machetes Corona used to kill and mutilate his victims.
In 1973, a jury found Corona guilty of murder and sentenced him to 25 consecutive life terms. The mass murder died in prison in 2019 at the age of 85, outliving fellow Corcoran prison inmate Charles Manson, who died at 83 in 2017.
Former Manson follower Leslie Van Houten has been recommended for parole five times, but according to Gov. Newsom, “gaps in insight,” still make her a danger to society. When it comes to violent crime, the governor and many Democrats demonstrate a similar insight gap.
“Gun violence” is a gutless dodge. Criminals disregard gun laws. Early release of violent criminals poses a danger to society. And so on, just kind of a simple thing.
Meanwhile, after the Sacramento shootings, support surged for the recall of San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, named after cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. Black Lives Matter bosses venerate the fugitive, now known as Assata Shakur.
Chesa Boudin has declined to prosecute many criminals and backs the release of most repeat offenders. On June 7, voters get the opportunity to give Boutin the boot. As Donald Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens.