DA blames realignment for crash

He says the car thief who crashed into a cop was released from jail early

An allegedly intentional head-on collision by a suspected Chico car thief into a Chico police car April 3 may be fallout from the state’s new realignment law, District Attorney Mike Ramsey contends.

The bill, AB 109, reduces prison overcrowding by transferring lower-risk state prisoners to county jails. The high-speed chase of Chico transient Joseph Stephens, 26, along Highway 99 and subsequent crash in an orchard caused damage but no serious injuries.

Two weeks earlier, Stephens was arrested for a nearly identical high-speed evasion in another stolen car, minus the crash. Ramsey says Judge Kristen Lucena initially released Stephens on his own recognizance—over the DA’s objections—five days before the second incident because the Butte County Jail was full.

Stephens faces a preliminary hearing April 12 on charges of felony evading, assault on a peace officer, vehicle theft and committing a crime while out on his own recognizance.