Suspect in luring of minor case granted pre-trial release
Three days after a Nevada County judge OK’d a $350,000 bail enhancement for a Grass Valley man arrested on charges of trying to lure a girl younger than 16 into meeting him for sex, the defendant was granted a pre-trial release with zero bail by the same magistrate.
Tyler Michael Clanton, 23, had been taken into custody Saturday night on charges of sending harmful matter to a minor with the intent to seduce, and arranging a meeting with a minor with the intent of engaging in sexual activity, reports state.
At Clanton’s arraignment Tuesday morning in Nevada County Superior Court, Judge Linda Sloven granted the pre-trial release, a move that left Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard “deeply concerned about a system that would assess a low risk factor to the type of crime committed in this case.”
“When an adult seeks out a juvenile with the intent to engage in sexual conduct, I have doubts about their suitability for their near-immediate release and whether it serves the interest of public safety,” he added.
Pre-trial release is a program initiated by the county in late 2019 in which a defendant can be released prior to trial following the recommendation of a report prepared by the county Probation Department. The report is designed to assess the risk to the community if a defendant is released without having to post cash bail. Factors such as the current charges and the criminal history are taken into account, as well as the person’s life situation, Nevada County Probation Chief Officer Michael Ertola has said.
“We use a validated (risk assessment) tool,” Ertola told The Union last year, explaining that release would be precluded by such “exclusionary” accusations such as kidnapping or other violent crime.
Ertola said ultimately the decision to release a defendant should come after a discussion in court between the district attorney, the defense counsel, and the judge.
In Clanton’s case, he was deemed eligible for pre-trial release based on the lack of significant criminal history, said Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh.
“We were opposed,” he said. “We think he should have stayed in custody on $100,000 bail.”
A criminal protective order was issued for the alleged victim, Walsh said.
Walsh noted that under the pre-trial release program, very few defendants are deemed ineligible based on the program’s exclusions.
“This case had some red flags in terms of it being a 290 (sex offense),” he said, explaining that Clanton had to go before a judge before being granted pre-trial release. “Ultimately this defendant was considered low risk due to having no criminal history, his age and the lack of violence.”
The traditional bail system is more of a black-and-white issue, Walsh said, adding, “This is the crime, this is the bail.”
Pre-trial release is designed to delve more deeply into a defendant’s circumstances.
“Mr. Clanton is presumed innocent,” said Public Defender Keri Klein in an e-mail. “In Nevada County, the court has the benefit of a thorough analysis by the Probation Department prior to making a decision on pretrial release. However … the court also listens to input from both the prosecution and defense. Based upon all of the information before it, the court makes a determination whether a person, who has not been convicted, should be released.”
The potential drawback, Walsh said, is that “pretty much everyone is eligible — so it is up to good judgment in the courtroom, to make the correct decision. There should be a public safety criteria, I agree with that in theory, but in practice sometimes I have disagreements. … Pre-trial release does provide more information. If everyone is doing their job, hopefully the judge can make the right decision.”
Authorities became aware of the allegations after the parents of the girl contacted Grass Valley police to report she received sexually based text messages from a man who then asked her to meet him, Sgt. Brian Blakemore has said.
When Clanton showed up at the meeting spot — the deserted parking lot of a business after hours — detectives took him into custody, Blakemore said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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