Grass Valley police say Facebook post about a drug case was meant to inform, not be a call-to-action
A Grass Valley police captain said a Facebook post that’s drawn 1,500 comments was meant to inform the public about a drug and weapons arrest, not issue a call-to-action against any specific judge.
However, the county’s public defender said the post colors the quality of the police investigation into Jeremy Sulley.
The Saturday post on the police’s Facebook page decried Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger’s decision to release the 29-year-old Sulley on his own recognizance, meaning he didn’t have to post cash bail. The Facebook post — a collaborative effort involving Chief Alex Gammelgard, Capt. Steve Johnson and others — used what Johnson called “tongue-in-cheek” language.
“I think that was borne out of our frustration with this case,” Johnson said, adding moments later: “People are dying every day from heroin overdoses.”
Gammelgard said his office’s Facebook page allows police to communicate to the public with some levity.
The post, which has drawn strong support from many online commenters, references an old credit card commercial.
“The initial bail amount set at the time of booking = 250,000,” the post states. “Release of an armed drug dealer with no bail – PRICELESS.”
Public Defender Keri Klein said judges rely on a variety of factors when determining whether someone should be released.
“The primary one is — are they going to show up in court,” Klein added.
Klein said the police’s post is an attempt to bias people against Sulley, who is represented by her office.
“This certainly colors the quality of this investigation,” she added.
Klein said the judicial system includes a presumption of innocence for the accused, a right for which people fought and died. She sees bias in local media toward people who haven’t been convicted.
“That is not what this country was built on and not what our forefathers fought for,” she said.
Police have said they responded Wednesday morning to reports of a man slumped over in a vehicle for two hours. An officer arrived and saw a bong and suspected heroin in Sulley’s lap. A search revealed additional drugs, a loaded .22-caliber handgun and about $1,000 in cash.
Sulley faces several felony and misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.
Johnson said his office obtained two search warrants — one for a more extensive search of Sulley’s vehicle and the other for his home. The warrant for the vehicle revealed more narcotics. Johnson declined to give details about the home search.
The Facebook post didn’t state Heidelberger’s name. Johnson said including the judge’s name would have served no purpose. The police’s Facebook page is for communicating with the public, and isn’t designed for political activity.
“It wasn’t personal,” he said. “We didn’t have a vendetta against any particular judge. We didn’t want to make it about a particular judge.”
Johnson said the post didn’t stem from prior judicial decisions. Police instead view each defendant on a case-by-case basis.
Gammelgard said Saturday’s Facebook post was the third time police had updated the public on the case — transparency he wants to see in the justice system. He called his department progressive, pointing to community oriented policing practices and connecting people to services as examples.
The police chief said he hopes for the best for Sulley. Gammelgard also wants accountability, arguing Sulley was found with a significant number of drugs.
“We’re concerned about our community’s safety,” the chief said. “We absolutely hope for the best for the defendant. We hope he appears in court.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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