William Richard Wolfenbarger, 36, appeared in custody at the Colusa County Superior Court on May 16, on charges that he violated the conditions of his Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) – but the case against him was dismissed, and Wolfenbarger was released later that day.
Chief Deputy Probation Officer Gerry Munoz said last week that Wolfenbarger was arrested after a PRCS search at his Williams residence turned up “inappropriate stuff” that was sexual in nature. Probation Chief Bill Fenton said it had to do with pictures and his email account.
As it turned out, there was an issue with the way in which Wolfenbarger’s PRCS conditions were written, which ultimately led to the dismissal.
The request to dismiss the charge came from the probation department and the district attorney’s office. Deputy District Attorney Winston Welch said in court that the reason the case was dismissed was that the original terms of Wolfenbarger’s PRCS were insufficient to bring charges.
“The way the conditions were written, it did not forbid certain material,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell clarified on Monday. “The way it did read is that he had to consent to search of his computer or electronics, for certain materials; there wasn’t language that punished for possession of the material. Changes have been made to it to forbid that type of material.”
Farrell added that the material in question may be legal under normal circumstances, but Wolfenbarger is barred from accessing or possessing it under the terms of his PRCS.
“Obviously, if any material itself is illegal, that’s a separate question,” Farrell said.
During court last week, Albert Smith – Wolfenbarger’s defense attorney – requested that his client be immediately released, stating that he saw no grounds for holding him in custody. Welch said that the district attorney’s office would not submit to his release until new PRCS terms were agreed upon.
“Terms need to be worked out before we submit to releasing the defendant into society,” Welch said.
Smith expressed some concerns over vague language in the new proposed conditions – specifically the use of “etc.” and “i.e.” – which Welch agreed to strike. Smith then took aim at one particular proposed provision: that Wolfenbarger not possess or have access to magazines, newspapers, journals, or periodicals depicting someone in undergarments, nude, or partially nude.
Smith objected to it, suggesting that the depiction of people in underwear or as partially nude is ubiquitous in those types of printed publications – specifically in advertising.
“Even our own Mayberry-esque newspaper would include such material,” Smith said, adding later that “even a hand model” could be considered as appearing partially nude.
Smith and Welch discussed the wording in open court for a short period of time before Judge Elizabeth Ufkes Olivera continued the case until after a recess.
“With a courtroom full of people, it’s not really fair to argue over semantics,” Olivera said.
The discussion continued in the courtroom through the recess, before the two agreed upon the phrasing for the conditions. Ultimately, conditions were added to Wolfenbarger’s PRCS that stipulated he not possess or have access to images depicting bondage implements, pornography, or nudity. After Wolfenbarger signed the new PRCS terms, the case was dismissed and Olivera ordered that he be released from custody, and that he report to probation immediately. n