In August of 2004, Steven Petrilli turned 18. As far as the criminal justice system is concerned, he received a clean slate for his future criminal behavior.
From Dec. 9, 2004, through June 5, 2006, Petrilli was arrested 12 times, charged with 18 felonies and 11 misdemeanors.
In this period of 18 months, he served no more then 35 days in jail.
A list of his alleged crimes included eight stolen vehicles; unlawful sex with a minor; possession of a concealed firearm; burglary in the first degree (a house); participating in a street gang activity; possession of stolen property; evading and resisting police; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In two of the most egregious cases, in August 2005, Judge James McBride allowed Petrilli to bail on $100,000 bond on a charge of having sex with a minor under the age of 14. Then, on Sept. 8, the judge allowed him to bail again on $75,000 bond on a charge of burglarizing the home of the minor.
Under Penal Code section 1272.1, a judge is mandated to consider whether the defendant “poses a danger to the safety of any other person or the community.”
Apparently Judge McBride either did not read the section, or still did not believe Petrilli was a sufficient threat to society after 11 felony arrests.
To add insult to injury, Petrilli was financing 100 percent of four different bails because of a new practice by some bail bondsman who no longer require an arrestee to post 10 percent of the bail up front.
That came to more than $800 per month in payments. I wonder where he was getting the money to make those payments.
Judge McBride finally set a court date for Petrilli: Sept. 1, 2006.
On July 26, 2006, Petrilli and his accomplices apparently decided it would be a good day to rob people. He and his three cohorts are charged with driving around the city, in a stolen car of course, and robbing at least two individuals, one an elderly Asian man in the Mission district.
Police say he fled when they spotted his vehicle. As he was pursued, Petrilli allegedly killed Officer Nick Birco with his vehicle.
Birco, a five-year veteran of our department, ex-Marine and Persian Gulf veteran, was killed while attempting to stop a suspect from inflicting any more grief on the citizens of San Francisco, something our criminal justice system showed little interest in doing.
Some politicians in this upside-down city incessantly talk about rising homicide rates, increased drug dealing and unsafe streets. They invariably blame the police for their troubles. They ban handguns and call for more beat officers to stem the crime rate.
I have a novel idea. Anyone sentenced to jail should be put there and made to stay until the sentence is completed. Also, do not allow criminals to circumvent the bail process by financing the entire amount. But, of course, these solutions are not politically correct for a city that just doesn’t like the idea of putting people in jail.
Gary Delagnes is president of the Police Officers Association of San Francisco.