"A convicted child molester is now free to victimize other children." That's the message from Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee.
The D.A.'s office says a clerical error at the Santa Cruz County Jail led to the suspect being handed over to immigration, then deported.
38-year-old Jorge Antonio Pallares was convicted on October 11, for committing a lewd act on a 13-year-old girl in Watsonville. The judge ordered he be detained in jail until sentencing scheduled for December 12.
However, according to the D.A.'s office, five days after Pallares' conviction, on October 16, an officer from the Santa Cruz County Jail accidentally released him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The D.A.'s office said that was in part due to a court clerk sending the jail court minutes for the wrong court date. Pallares was sent to Mexico, November 15.
While the defendant was in deportation proceedings an attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement contacted the Santa Cruz County Jail and inquired as to whether the defendant should actually be deported given the fact that he had a sentencing date on December 12, 2013 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. Representatives from the county jail reviewed the matter again. The jail declined to take the defendant back into custody. The D.A.'s office said it was never notified.
Thursday, Judge Paul Marigonda issued a one million dollar bench warrant for Pallares. The court ordered that the defendant was to be sentenced to up to 6 years in prison on December 12, 2013.
Since the defendant was deported to Mexico he was not present for sentencing on December 12, 2013 and has not been sentenced to prison for the child molestation crime for which he has been convicted. "This should never have happened," District Attorney Bob Lee.
The victim's family members and Watsonville Police Department Detectives have been notified of the defendant's accidental release.
Watsonville Police declined to comment and Central Coast News is waiting to hear back from Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak.