AB-109 loophole may have paved way for Fresno State attack

FRESNO, Calif.

Action News first reported two months ago on the loophole between the state's realignment law and Fresno jail policy that allowed sex offenders to walk free even after violating parole. Now, we've discovered how those issues contributed to the attack at Fresno State by a repeat offender.

Fidel Tafoya was still in jail Thursday night and Sheriff Margaret Mims told Action News he'll stay there until he gets a parole hearing because he's a menace to society. But because of AB-109 and jail policy, another high risk sex offender walked free Thursday.

Tafoya has tormented women on the Fresno State campus for 22 years now. But despite numerous court appearances and 23 arrests during that time, including nine on college campuses, he's never served longer than a three-year prison sentence for his minor sex-related crimes.

He's also mostly avoided time in the Fresno County jail, even though he's violated parole four times in the last year -- since the passage of AB-109, the state prison realignment law. He committed four violations last November, including being on a school campus. The Board of Parole Hearings sentenced him to 150 days in jail. He served 50 days.

Recently retired parole agent Walter Reta says the punishment would've been much harsher before AB-109.

"Up to a year in state prison," he said.

Tafoya was out in January and violated parole again in April, this time serving zero days.

"Before AB-109, it would've been up to one year," Reta said.

Tafoya violated his parole one more time in August before just cutting off his GPS monitor this month. Eight days later, he was arrested for sexual battery on the Fresno State campus.

Prosecutors have not filed new charges against him, but he's still in jail on a parole warrant for cutting his monitor. Reta says that usually means it's just a matter of time before he'll be out.

"When the jail reaches a certain capacity, and he's here at the jail for a non-violent crime, or just a parole hold as in this case, then he could easily be released within hours," Reta said.

But he hasn't been, and Sheriff Margaret Mims says he won't be because of his long history of non-violent sex crimes.

Meanwhile, jail records show Jesse Cobian was released Thursday after less than eleven hours in custody despite his own parole warrant for cutting his GPS monitor.

Cobian is a convicted rapist and parole agents say he's a known gang member who hid out for two months after destroying his monitor.

A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told Action News Thursday that "ultimately, the decision and responsibility for placing a parole violator in jail rests with county personnel."

Sheriff Mims said the jail is trying to adapt to the challenges of AB-109 to keep the most dangerous people behind bars.

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