By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday questioned the reasoning of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who denied the request for a mental health diversion by a woman charged with stalking, making annoying phone calls, and communicating numerous criminal threats, citing her dangerousness to the public, then approved a plea bargain which, in light of time served, meant her almost-immediate release.
Div. Four, in an unpublished opinion by Justice Brian S. Currey, reversed an order by Judge Alan K. Schneider denying diversion to Constance A. Buccafurri who, under the plea bargain, pled no contest to one count of criminal threats and one count of stalking. She had been facing trial on seven counts.
“[W]e conclude the trial court’s decision not to grant diversion was an abuse of discretion. In denying Buccafurri’s request for diversion, the court professed concern that Buccafurri would pose an undue danger to the public if released to participate in a mental health diversion program. Immediately after issuing its ruling denying her request for diversion, however, the court noted Buccafurri had made considerable progress while in custody, and expressed its willingness to accept a plea deal that would result in Buccafurri being released within ‘a couple of weeks.’ ”
“If the court believed Buccafurri’s risk of danger to public safety was low enough to release her a mere two weeks after the mental health diversion hearing, we see no logical reason for the court to have concluded the danger she would pose if granted mental health diversion was high enough that she might commit a super strike such as murder or attempted murder. We also note that the court’s decision to deny diversion but accept the plea was in direct conflict with the psychiatric report’s conclusion that mental health treatment would make Buccafurri less of a danger upon release.”
The opinion orders that the convictions be vacated and pre-trial diversion be granted, specifying that if she successfully completes the program, that the charges be dismissed—and if she doesn’t, that the convictions be reinstated.
The case is People v. Buccafurri, B304746.
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