A Turlock man convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced under California’s “Three Strikes” law has been granted parole after serving 18 years in prison, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office reported.
Craig Christopher Leon, 61, of Turlock was found guilty by a Stanislaus County jury on Feb. 1, 2006 for transportation of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for sale. Leon had two prior serious felony convictions for robbery and was on parole at the time of his arrest.
In the announcement of Leon’s parole being granted, the district attorney’s office said recent changes to California’s “Three Strikes” law made Leon eligible for early release.
“Specifically, his early parole consideration was mandated by the passage of Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, approved by voters in November 2016,” said Stanislaus County District Attorney spokesman Wendell Emerson in a released statement.
The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act gives felons convicted of non-violent offenses a chance to earn additional good behavior credits toward early release by participating in rehabilitative, educational and career training programs. The Act was approved by California voters in November 2016 by 64.46 percent.
Leon’s arrest in 2004 came about after he almost struck a marked Modesto Police car. He was stopped for the traffic violation and a parole search of his pickup led to the discovery of 11.53 grams of heroin.
Leon had a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for robberies, burglary, possession of stolen property and drug crimes. He has also been arrested for various sexual offenses including rape and indecent exposure. His convictions for two prior robberies counted as strikes against him when he was convicted for the drug offenses.
Deputy District Attorney Holly MacKinnon appeared at the parole hearing on behalf of the People and argued against Leon’s release on parole and for continued confinement “based on the inmate’s lengthy criminal history and his lack of sufficient substance abuse programming and his lack of adequate internalization of that programming,” Emerson said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board of Parole Hearings granted parole, finding that although they would like to see more internalization of his programming, Leon did not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety. The Board noted Leon had not received any rule violation since 2014 and had actively participated in programming including substance abuse, AA/NA, and self-help programs.
In addition, the Board felt he had a release plan which included transitional housing and community support which mitigated any safety risk he may pose. As conditions of parole, the Board ordered that Leon provide proof to his parole agent of continued substance abuse programing and that he be assessed by mental health services.