A Fresno man who potentially faces life in prison for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery wants to be let out of jail to wait for his trial, saying he is worried about catching COVID-19.
Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez denied the request Tuesday in what is the latest attempt to have inmates who are elderly or have chronic illnesses released from jail.
Nadja Kazarian, Gerardo Madrigal Jr.’s attorney, argued that her 29-year-old client suffers from cirrhosis of the liver and has a weakened immune system. If he were to contract COVID-19, the coronavirus, he would be at a higher risk of severe illness, she said.
“My client cannot rely on the Fresno County Jail to act in accordance with inmate safety and health,” Kazarian said.
Court documents show the jail has one confirmed case of COVID-19 and that inmate has been isolated.
Kazarian was requesting Madrigal’s $1.2 million bail be reduced or he be allowed to be released under strict conditions, similar to being under house arrest. She added that Madrigal has not been convicted of a violent crime.
Prosecutor Sean Brunton said releasing Madrigal, even under house arrest, would be a grave mistake and put the community at risk.
Madrigal is facing eight felony charges for a crime spree on Nov. 9, 2019. Madrigal is accused of forcing a Lyft driver at gunpoint to withdraw cash from an ATM before assaulting the driver and stealing his car.
Later the same day, police allege, Madrigal broke into a 66-year-old woman’s home and held her against her will for several hours before she escaped. Madrigal is accused of fleeing in her car.
Madrigal’s charges including kidnapping with intent to commit robbery, carjacking, robbery, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. He faces life in prison if found guilty on all the charges.
Madrigal also has two outstanding warrants for his arrest and is an admitted member of the Watsonville nortenos gang, Brunton said.
“Everything in front of the courts indicates he is both a flight risk and a danger to the community,” Brunton said.
Kazarian denied her client was a flight risk, saying his outstanding warrants are misdemeanor violations, including a hit and run charge.
Alvarez wasn’t swayed and questioned how fleeing a hit and run accident shows accountability.
“Doesn’t the essence of a hit and run offense seem to indicate he had no intent to remain?” Alvarez said. “You have a responsibility to do that.”
Alvarez denied Madrigal’s request to lower his bail, saying the charges against him were frightening.
“The allegations against Mr. Madrigal show random acts of violence against people he doesn’t know,” Alvarez said. “It is quite scary.”
Madrigal has been in custody since Nov. 10 and isn’t expected to appear in court again until July 7.