Sonora, California --- Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke announced today that on July 7, 2023, former Sonora resident Justin Hatler, age 47, was found unsuitable for early parole and was issued a three year denial during a videoconference hearing with the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke appeared with the two survivors. Commissioner Cassady and Deputy Commissioner Iwanami presided over the hearing and issued a unanimous decision.
In 2015, Hatler pled guilty to a felony violation of Penal Code section 269(a)(4) [aggravated sexual assault of a child] and a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 243.4(a) [sexual battery]. Each charge pled to was against a different child victim. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. During the hearing, panel members noted a lack of insight into what motivated Hatler's crimes. The risk he posed to the community if released was further supported by a Comprehensive Risk Assessment performed by a trained psychologist that rated Hatler at a moderate risk of violent reoffending.
At the time of this parole hearing, Hatler had served just over 8 years of his 15 years to life sentence. Statutorily, Hatler should have served at least 12 years and 9 months of his 15 year to life sentence before being eligible for parole because he was convicted of a violent felony. However, rules and regulations promulgated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) during the COVID19 pandemic and the passage of Proposition 57 in 2016 have allowed CDCR to increase the rate at which inmates are awarded Good Conduct Credits, Milestone Completion Credits, Education Merit Credits, and Rehabilitative Achievement Credits. These programs were created to incentivize participation in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism. Unfortunately, the data that would guide the determination as to whether these programs are working has been slow to be received, incomplete, and outdated. Neither the voters, nor those who work within the criminal justice system, nor the Legislature have any measurable data with which to measure the efficacy of CDCR’s educational, rehabilitative, and good conduct credit programming.
"I am grateful for the panel's careful consideration on July 7, 2023. It was clear to me during that hearing that Hatler continued to lack adequate insight into what motivated his sexual violence. The Panel was left confused by what drove him to commit these crimes and without clarity as to why, the risk of release was too great. I am also grateful to the survivors who bravely participated in this process. Their strength was unmatched and their voices in opposition of release were clear. However, our system requires our crime survivors to go through this incredibly difficult, scary, and often revictimizing experience to benefit their abuser earlier and more frequently in the process. While unfair and incredibly frustrating, this leaves our Office more determined than ever to support our survivors at these parole hearings." said DA Jenecke.
For more information, please contact District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke at 209-588-5450.