Felony rape and burglary becomes 19 days and 20 bucks...
Mistakenly released inmate re-released Monday
The man whose mistaken release from jail two weeks ago sparked a daylong manhunt and front-page media coverage was re-released from custody Monday — intentionally — after one of two felony charges against him was dropped and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor.
Clinton Lee Harris III, 25, of Arcata was arrested April 18 and was awaiting trial on felony rape and burglary charges for allegedly breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s Arcata residence and raping her.
He was mistakenly released from the Humboldt County jail Aug. 3 and was returned to custody Aug. 8, after sheriff’s officials discovered the mistake and Sheriff’s Detective Troy Garey tracked Harris down in Arcata.
Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said Wednesday that the plea deal was made because the case suffered from “problems of proof in regards to the sexual assault and, by extension, the burglary.”
“I believe that the sexual assault allegation was problematic for several reasons,” McLaughlin stated in an e-mail. “The victim and the defendant had a preexisting romantic relationship and continued their relationship after their separation; there was not a (sexual assault) examination until 10 days post-event; and the victim’s roommate, who was home at the time of the alleged event, did not hear anything out of the ordinary.
“Ultimately, the misdemeanor burglary offer was my attempt to get Mr. Harris on probation. For the reasons stated above, had this proceeded to trial, I do not think we would have prevailed.”
Arcata Police Chief Randy Mendosa said Wednesday that his department, which originally arrested Harris, was studying the details of the plea agreement.
“I have asked our staff to review the issue, which includes ordering a copy of the court minutes. Our inquiry, which will include reviewing the facts with the District Attorney’s Office, will most likely take some time to accomplish. So at this point, I can’t say if I will have any concerns or not.”
For the misdemeanor burglary charge, Harris was given a 19-day sentence and a $20 fine. He will also serve three years of probation, with a condition added to his probation prohibiting him from going anywhere near the ex-girlfriend.
“Ultimately, what was of utmost concern for the victim in the case was that there be no contact,” McLaughlin said. “The previous deputy who was handling the case conveyed to me that this was what the victim was concerned about.”
ER Arrest made in alleged sexual assault incident 4/18/07
ER Rape suspect re-arrested after he was mistakenly released 8/8/07
TS Inmate accidentally released from jail
TS Sheriff's Department taking precautions after accidental inmate release