UPDATE: The Westminster City Council voted 5-0 Monday afternoon to join in an amicus brief to back Sheriff Don Barnes’ opposition to a court order requiring him to transfer or release inmates from county jails to ease the danger of coronavirus transmission.
A special meeting of the Westminster City Council will be held on Monday to consider going to court or sending a letter to support Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes’ opposition to a court order to release 1,800 inmates from county jails.
The council will meet at 1 p.m. via teleconference.
Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson on Dec. 11 – in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union – ruled that the population of jails in Orange County be reduced by half in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Stating that many inmates are on trial for or have been convicted of violent crimes, Barnes said, “This order puts our community at substantial risk and does not take into account the impact on the victims of these crimes.”
On Friday, a 68-year-old inmate, Eddie Lee Anderson, died at the Theo Lacy facility in Orange from medical complications after testing positive for COVID-19. He was there after being arrested on suspicion of homicide.
At issue is authorizing the city attorney to send a letter of support or join in a brief filed by another city supporting Barnes’ challenge to the judge’s order. Newport Beach, Fullerton and Garden Grove have joined – or considered joining – in support of Barnes.
This isn’t the first time this month that Barnes has been in the news for a coronavirus issue. After Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order, Barnes put out a statement saying that deputies would take no part in enforcing the order.
“Orange County sheriff’s deputies will not be dispatched to, or respond to, calls for service to enforce compliance with face coverings, social gatherings or stay-at-home orders,” the statement read, in part. It did encourage residents to voluntarily follow health protocols.