ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - A man charged with aggravated kidnapping for ransom and extortion is the first Orange County inmate to petition to be released on his own recognizance following a judge’s order Friday that ordered the Orange County Jail’s population be reduced by half.
Ezra Schley, 72, of Huntington Beach, is charged with one felony count of aggravated kidnapping for ransom and extortion, one felony count of residential burglary, one felony count of attempted extortion, and one misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm in public.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges.
Schley is one of four defendants charged in connection with kidnapping an Irvine woman from her apartment and holding her for two days in an attempt to extort a large sum of money from her husband and mother-in-law.
The four defendants are also accused of sending pictures of Jane Doe being held captive to Jane Doe’s husband.
Schley is currently being held at the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail.
His petition to be released on his own recognizance is scheduled for 9 a.m. on December 23.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the Irvine woman was rescued by the Irvine Police Department after her mother-in-law contacted police and requested a welfare check.
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On Friday, an Orange County Superior Court judge issued a ruling in Campbell et. all v. Barnes ordering Sheriff Don Barnes to reduce Orange County's jail population by 50% to allow for more social distancing among inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schley's attorney, David Swanson, unsuccessfully tried in March when the pandemic began to get his bail lowered and filed another motion on Monday following Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson's ruling Friday.
Swanson said his client needs heart surgery.
"He is vulnerable to get COVID and die in jail, so this is about the jail conditions are dangerous and my client needs to get out, so why can't we reduce his bail a little bit," Swanson said.
According to the office of Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, the DA's office, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department, the Public Defender, the Criminal Defense Bar, the County’s Health Care Agency, and the Orange County Superior Court, has worked throughout the pandemic to conduct risk assessments in order to release medically vulnerable inmates prior to completing their entire sentence.
The DA's office reportedly found that Orange County inmates released early before serving their full sentence or on $0 bail went out and committed new crimes at rates at nearly triple normal recidivism rates: 44% for early release inmates and 38% for $0 bail defendants.
"A sample of their crimes: auto theft, burglary, robbery, assault, weapons, theft and narcotics. As well as a 23-year-old man who stabbed his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend four times, killing her. He had been released on $0 bail 3 ½ weeks earlier," the DA's office cited as examples in a press release.
"The jail population has been reduced by more than 33 percent since the beginning of the pandemic in March,” said Spitzer. “There are more than 400 people in custody who have already been convicted or who are awaiting trial for murder or attempted murder. Now the ACLU is fighting to release people who have been convicted or are awaiting trial on felony charges that could send them to prison for the rest of their lives. These are hardcore criminals who are going to try everything they can to game the system so they can get out and commit more crimes. The judge’s order is outrageous and I’m not going to allow Orange County and Southern California residents to be put at risk by the release of dangerous and violent criminals back into our communities."