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Smiley Martin, 27, was released from prison in February after serving less than half of a 10-year sentence for belting and whipping his girlfriend while she was hiding in her closet, despite the Sacramento County Attorney’s Office’s pleas to do so “should not be released because he poses a significant, unacceptable safety risk to the community.”
Just weeks later, he and his brother, 26-year-old Dandrae Martin, were allegedly involved in a gang shooting in downtown Sacramento in the early hours of April 3 that left six dead and another dozen injured.
The tragedy is just the latest example of what happens when society doesn’t punish repeat offenders, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told Fox News Digital.
“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and violent people will be violent when they come out, and we’ve seen that here,” Jones said.
“Every crime has a victim, and those victims pile up, sometimes minor and sometimes catastrophic, as we saw in Sacramento [on April 3]. This is the latest, but unfortunately not the last. Because if we don’t change the way California and the rest of this nation treats criminals, this is just going to be an ongoing trend.”
Martin has a long criminal history dating back to his girlfriend’s 2017 arrest and subsequent conviction for assault.
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He was arrested in January 2013 for possession of an assault rifle and two fully loaded 25-round magazines, which he was trying to throw away when police contacted him. A judge in that case sentenced him to probation and county jail.
Then, in November 2013, Martin and three other suspects entered a Walmart and robbed the store with $2,800 worth of electronics. An investigation revealed his involvement in two other robberies that month and he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Three years later, in November 2016, Martin gave police officers a false name and attempted to escape when they said he was being detained. The attack on his girlfriend, whom prosecutors say he encouraged to become a prostitute, came six months later.
“Martin has repeatedly shown his inability to obey any law or condition the court imposes on him,” Sacramento County Assistant District Attorney Danielle Abildgaard wrote in a letter last year opposing his release. “His story shows that he will pursue his own personal agenda, regardless of the consequences and regulatory restrictions imposed on him.”
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Martin was released early from prison in February after receiving 508 days of credit for time he served in the Sacramento County Jail and other post-conviction credits under Proposition 57, a law passed by California voters in 2016 to give “nonviolent” criminals a chance to have their sentences reduced.
Citing laws like Proposition 57 to get violent offenders out of prison, Jones argued that Americans now have a collective amnesia about hard-line crime policies that have reduced crime in recent decades.
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“In the late ’80s and early ’90s … violent crime was so bad in California and across the country that things like three strikes, gang upgrades, gun upgrades, and things to really address the runaway violence that was occurring.. Well, that’s what has led to it, at least in California, and I think as a nationwide trend, that violent crime has gone down over the last two or three decades, it’s worked, but people have short memories and they’re like, ‘Well, there we’re not as violent anymore, we don’t need those things’ without realizing cause and effect that these things actually reduce violent crime,” Jones said.
“As we chisel on these things, as we chisel on three strikes, as we chisel on improvements, as we release people from prison, as we start treating criminals like victims and victims like criminals, it’s totally predictable what’s ahead is going to happen and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Martin is no exception when it comes to parole. Of 4,070 inmates convicted in Sacramento and released between January 2019 and May 2021, more than 1,300 were serving less than half their sentences, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney.
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At the same time, homicides have increased significantly. According to data from the Sacramento Police Department, 55 homicides were committed in Sacramento in 2021, a nearly 31% increase from 2020.
In four other major California cities — Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco — homicide rates rose 17% over the past year, according to preliminary data analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.