SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The man sentenced to six years in prison for causing a Rio Linda crash that sent a woman to the hospital and caused her to prematurely deliver her baby back in 2019 will get an early release.
A release notice sent to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office notes that Ronny Ward will be released in November after serving less than half his original sentence. The reason: He received credits for an associate’s degree.
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The baby’s mother, Ciara Villegas, was six months pregnant when she was hit. Her baby, RJ, was delivered by an emergency C-section but died days later.
In 2019, he was not charged with vehicular manslaughter, even though the crash killed baby RJ. California law defines murder as a killing of a human being or a fetus, but for murder, there has to be proven malice or intent. For manslaughter, a killing without malice, the law does not include a fetus, only a human being.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has the power to change an inmate’s sentence time based on credits. This is through Proposition 57, a law that was passed in 2016 that gives the CDCR the power to do so. Credits may include Milestone Completion Credit, Rehabilitative Achievement Credit or an Educational Merit Credit.
Villegas wrote on social media that Ward’s release was “not justice for my son” and she was angry he had the ability to receive a degree.
Advocates for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who have rallied around Villegas are coming to her side, once again. One says an early release makes it difficult for victims and families to heal.
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“To learn that may be cut in half, or even a third, it’s very, very hard for victims to take that as any kind of justice,” said Rhonda Campbell with MADD.
The goal is to give inmates incentives so when they re-enter society, they can contribute, according to attorney Justin Ward.
“What do we want? Do we want somebody that went to prison with no incentive to change their behavior because they were just going to do all their time?” he said.
Looking at an early release as an opportunity for an inmate to contribute to society in a productive manner without making the same mistakes is what attorney Ward says is the hard part for some involved.
“If you don’t give them any reason to be a model inmate then they’ll likely continue the behaviors that led to them being incarcerated in the first place,” he said.
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Ronny Ward is set to be released on Nov. 16.