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Letter Shows San Diego DA’s Concerns About Parole For Tony Hicks

Tony Hicks, left, poses in this undated photo with Azim Khamisa, the father o...

Credit: Courtesy the Tariq Khamisa Foundation

Above: Tony Hicks, left, poses in this undated photo with Azim Khamisa, the father of the man that Hicks killed when he was 14 years old.

The county's top prosecutor said in a letter to the state parole board that a former gang member, who committed murder at a young age and was recently recommended for parole, may not be fully rehabilitated more than 20 years later.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan took an unusual step and did not formally oppose the parole of Tony Hicks in part because he was only 14 at time of the crime and has support from his victim's family, but did detail concerns in a document submitted to the board prior to Hicks' parole hearing.

Document

DA Letter To State Parole Board About Tony Hicks

DA Letter To State Parole Board About Tony Hicks

Caption can be: San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan listed concerns about the potential release of convicted killer Tony Hicks in an Oct. 31, 2018 letter to a state board prior to Hicks' Nov. 28, 2018 parole hearing.

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Tony Hicks pleaded guilty to murdering 20-year-old college student Tariq Khamisa in 1995. Khamisa's father, Azim, forgave Hicks and advocated for his release. Khamisa said he was thrilled with the board's recommendation and plans on hiring the now 38-year-old Hicks at his organization, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, which aims to combat youth violence.

In the Oct. 31 letter recently made available under a public records request, Stephan pointed to a doctor’s August assessment that said Hicks' risk of violence was "moderate...with the caveat that he does not return to using substances and/or associating with anti-social peers." The doctor also noted "it cannot be concluded with any certainty that he will be fully responsive to management efforts and parole conditions in the future," according to the letter.

Additionally, Stephan referenced Hicks' past violence behind bars, specifically his stabbing of a prison guard in 2002, but also highlighted his positive efforts during incarceration.

Hicks earned his GED and college credits while in prison, according to the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

"Though the inmate has ample evidence of programming, certificates, recognition, support letters, employment opportunities and community-based support, we remain concerned whether he has sufficient insight and understanding of what it means to conform his behavior to the rules as set forth in the institution, as impulsivity appears to remain a lingering issue," Stephan's letter concluded.

A spokesman for Stephan said she did not have any additional comment but referenced a past statement that said she respected the board's decision. It is common for prosecutors to oppose the parole of an offender at their first hearing, especially if they continue violence in prison, the statement also said.

RELATED: After Forgiving Son's Young Killer, Father Advocated For His Parole Two Decades Later

A lawyer for Hicks did not return phone calls seeking comment, but The Washington Post reported Hicks apologized and took responsibility for his past violent behavior at the Nov. 28 hearing in San Luis Obispo. The two-member panel accepted his apology and noted his positive behavior in recent years, according to the Post.

Hicks has also repeatedly expressed remorse for killing Tariq Khamisa and said he hopes to contribute to society upon his release.

"I hope to be of service to others in a positive way now. I will spend my life making amends for taking your life and those I have hurt along this journey, I will do it all in your name Tariq," Hicks wrote in a blog post on the Tariq Khamisa Foundation's website.

Khamisa, Tariq's father, told KPBS in a past interview that he believed Hicks served adequate time behind bars.

"I truly believe there is no escaping wrongdoing. Karma always balances, and I think he's suffered enough," Khamisa said.

The panel's recommendation to parole Hicks will be reviewed internally for 120 days. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that process is largely procedural.

"The internal review is more or less to make sure the decision is supported by all the information on the record,” Bill Sessa said.

The recommendation will then be forwarded to the office of the governor, who will have 30 days to approve, reverse or adjust the decision. The governor may also order the full board to reconsider it or take no action and the panel's decision will be affirmed.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan did not formally oppose the parole of Tony Hicks, who committed murder at 14 years old but listed concerns in a letter to the parole board.

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