Top law enforcement officials from Riverside County, as well as the district attorney from a nearby county, held a press conference Wednesday where they leveled strong criticism against the perceived revolving door of justice in the state.  

Pointing to a rise in crime, officials said offenders are released from jail too frequently. In the city of Riverside alone, police said commercial burglaries are up 31% compared to this time last year. 

“All of us up here on stage have had enough,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at the press conference. “We cannot protect our public. We’re getting no help from Sacramento.” 

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward used the example of 31-year-old Timothy Bethell of Winchester, who has 39 felony convictions ranging from burglary to vandalism. Ward said the 31-year-old began terrorizing businesses in 2021. Bethell pleaded no contest to 14 felony charges and was sentenced to four years suspended state prison time, but that’s not what happened.  

“He was convicted, as I said, in Tulare County and was released, as is so common, to a residential treatment program at which he immediately absconded from,” Ward said. “Within days, he is captured in Tulare County breaking into yet another business and he’s convicted of that additional felony count as well.” 

Officials said Bethell was eventually transferred back where he continued his siege on businesses in the southwestern portion of Riverside County, which resulted in thousands of dollars in losses and damages. 

31-year-old Timothy Bethell of Winchester, who has 39 felony convictions ranging from burglary to vandalism. (Tulare County Sheriff’s Dept.)

“The reality is that he should’ve been state prison,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said of Bethell. “For our county jail system…we are forced because of AB 109…to hold people in county jail for periods of time that have exceeded the capacity of county jail.”  

Both Hestrin and Bianco said current laws are enabling habitual offenders. Under AB 109, which went into effect in 2011, individuals convicted of crimes that would previously have sent them to state prison are now being housed at county jails, which are overcrowded and not designed for long sentences.  

“We have to amend or add a law that says a habitual offender can go to state prison,” Hestrin said. “Under current law, no matter how many crimes that Mr. Bethell commits that are categorized as 1170H under AB 109, we can never send him to state prison.”  

Wednesday’s press conference comes on the heels of the state announcing the closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in eastern Riverside County. Law enforcement officials are urging voters to call on their legislators for a change.