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Public Safety

Man Gets New Sentence Amid Push For Review Of Unduly Harsh Prison Terms

The San Diego Central Jail on Front Street, August 7, 2018.
Claire Trageser
The San Diego Central Jail on Front Street, August 7, 2018.

An 84-year-old man who has served 25 years of a 140- year-to-life prison sentence for a series of Rancho Santa Fe residential burglaries received a new sentence Monday that will ensure his release as part of increased efforts to reconsider the sentences of inmates who may warrant early release and reintegration back into the community.

James Riveria is the fifth local defendant to receive a new sentence since recent changes to state law opened the door for prosecutors to petition for resentencing in cases where the sentences may have been harsher than warranted. Assembly Bill 2942, which went into effect in 2019, allows prosecutors to recommend resentencing and petition judges to hear those cases.

Riveria was resentenced Monday morning to 27 years and eight months. As he has conduct credits putting his time served at nearly 30 years, the sentence will allow him to be released, and he will be on parole for two years.

In addition to those who have already been recommended for release and resentencing, the DA's Office has also filed petitions asking a judge to resentence two other inmates.

Around 150 inmates' sentences are currently under review, according to the DA's Office.

"Prosecutors have a duty to seek the truth and justice before, during, and after someone is convicted and that includes making sure that prison sentences are proportionate with the harm that the crime produced," District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "This new law allows prosecutors to repair past inequities by looking back and correcting any unjust sentences, and we are committed to doing while considering crime victims and public safety.

"It's also important we continue to approach criminal justice reform initiatives like this lawfully and responsibly, making sure when someone is released, they're set up to succeed when they come back to our communities," Stephan said.

Some prosecutors have brought cases forward for resentencing, while the DA's Office also receives resentencing recommendations from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, applications from the inmates themselves, or referrals from the community.

Applications for sentencing review can be found on the District Attorney's Office website.