Blame game starts after suspected fentanyl traffickers released, skip court appearance

Two men allegedly transporting 150,000 fentanyl pills from Mexico to Washington State were stopped along Highway 99 in Tulare on June 24, released on their own recognizance the next day, and failed to appear at a court hearing on Tuesday.

The weekend release of the men, Jose Zendejas and Benito Madrigal, has started a blame game in Tulare County: multiple public safety agencies are now laying the blame at each other — and the state government.

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux have blamed the release on a public safety assessment carried out by the Tulare County Probation Department, according to a KMPH FOX 26 story published Tuesday, June 28. KMPH interviewed both Ward and Boudreaux.

Boudreaux also took to FOX News the same day, calling for tighter border security, justice reform, and said that “California’s system of justice is failing us all.”

“I didn’t even learn of the order until it was far too late. This assessment was done behind the scenes, basically, without ever contacting me as the sheriff or even asking me what I believe the risk to our public safety would be,” Boudreaux told FOX News reporters. “I made a phone call to our district attorney, who also had no information as to this assessment and release.”

The probation department hit back the same day, stating that their public safety assessments are not the final word in whether an inmate is released.

“The [Public Safety Assessment] does not provide a recommendation for pretrial release, it provides an assessment outcome. The probation department does not have the authority to order the release of inmates and we did not make a recommendation for release of these individuals,” the probation department’s statement reads. “The assessment process is not done ‘behind the scenes,’ the development and implementation of Pretrial functions in Tulare County was a collaborative and transparent process involving representatives from our law enforcement partners.”

The statement adds that the final decision rests with the Tulare County Superior Court’s judicial officer, and that the court “ultimately decides the release of individuals.”

Mikki Verissimo, the court’s judicial officer, signed off on the release of the two men. The court released the probation department’s safety assessment and Verissimo’s signed order.

Verissimo is a magistrate hired by the Tulare County judges to hear minor cases such as setting bail, small claims and traffic cases. Before being hired as a commissioner Verissimo was the Supervising Deputy District Attorney with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office and recognized publicly by TCDA Tim Ward for her exemplary service.

A statement from the Tulare County Superior Court on June 29 states that “there was no additional information provided by the District Attorney or the arresting agency requesting bail deviation or detention holds, as is allowed by current statute.”


“At the time of this press release, the Tulare County District Attorney has not filed charges in this case,” the release stated.

The district attorney’s entered the fray yesterday with their own press release — and officially filed charges against the two men.

“The Office of the District Attorney and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office were not consulted regarding the release,” the district attorney’s press release stated.

The Voice spoke to John Sarsfield, an attorney with the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield; he is the the former district attorney for San Benito County.

“If they are going to assign blame, it’s all their fault,” Sarsfield said.

Sarsfield was referring to the probation department, TCDA and the Tulare County Superior Court. The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office was only peripherally involved in the arrest and is more involved in putting the suspects back in custody.

Sarsfield says that the suspects did not belong in jail while waiting for a conviction, because the crime was not one of violence but one of transporting a prescription drug widely used by the medical community.

He added that most defendants show up for their scheduled court appearances — even though this pair did not.

According to the district attorney’s press release, “If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces up to 14 years in state prison. Following today’s case filing, prosecutors requested a court hearing regarding bail. At the hearing in Department 10, Judge Nathan Leedy rescinded the prior release on own recognizance order and issued arrest warrants for the men. The court also set bail at $2.15 million. An appearance date of July 21, 2022, remains scheduled.

“This is an active investigation. If the public has information regarding these defendants or their whereabouts, contact the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.”


23 thoughts on “Blame game starts after suspected fentanyl traffickers released, skip court appearance

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  1. Get this…word is Mikki Verissimo is currently seeking to be a judge. She should have known to ask for more information before releasing these guys spreading poisonous fentanyl. But she is a Democrat seeking a Newsom appointment. We can’t afford a judge like this! The DA should have had a prosecutor there to argue against release but I guess that did not occur. And TCSO actually investigated the case and arrested the two men? TCSO should have filed a no bail request and had reports ready to be filed. All these big wigs are to blame but they point the fingers at each other to keep their jobs. All while us little people pay $7 a gallon gas and these county employees make around $200. Something ain’t right!

  2. Anyone responsible for letting these two go with that much dope is non-biblical evil and the antithesis of all that is good and right in the world.
    How in the name of all things holy did these two walk after answering some touchy feely questionnaire developed by grad students at Chico. What an absolute disaster. Why should anyone even try anymore?

  3. The release of these 2 young men to the public, caught transportation deadly narcotics is unheard of. The persons involved needs to be questioned and be relieved in their position. Releasing these transporters are just telling the public and the people involved that we don’t care about the safety of our community. Let our leaders be informed about this tremendous irresponsibility. Change needs to be done.

  4. This is what happens when you push the Democratic agenda. Congratulations Tulare County! While you were busy pushing a democratic DA in Kings County the corrupt liberals in Tulare County are letting arrested prisoners free without any bail or any monitoring device. But what do you expect from a county full of censoring communist who claim to be liberal. You reap what you sow. Who was the judge that hired this court officer? The voters need to know for his next term. I bet Catherine of Valley Voice will vote for Mikki Verissimo. Criminal birds of a feather flock together. This is the party that VALLEY VOICE pushes on citizens

  5. Ask yourself why Valley Voice removes comments? It’s the go to move of communist. Catherine Doe and Tony Maldonado Jr both support communist Putin.

    • For anyone curious, “Ron” is our only banned commenter for hurling slurs and swears at our other commenters and asking them for their real names and the counties they live in. He tried commenting yesterday under a different name and the remarks were deleted.

      “Ron” – I am not a communist nor a Putin supporter, and I think I can safely say the same for Catherine. (Also, Putin is not a communist, but we can set that one to the side for now.)

      “Ron” – Catherine may not be such a communist since she was OK with letting this one stay up. Also, if I am a communist, why did you try to add me as a friend on Facebook?

      • The real question why don’t you accept message request? Are you too scared to have an intelligent conversation with valley citizens? Your go to move is to block anyone that tries to talk to you. Real humane if you. You think Putin isn’t a communist when he is the leader of communist Russia lol. You are lying and wrong. Just like you lie about Ron only using profanity. I have screenshots of others using foul language. Plus this platform has no authentication. It’s overran with bots and trolls but Tony only focuses on one man he personally hates. We know you are a censoring coward. Tony JR is a compulsive liar like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

    • To blame the Democrats for everything, including the odor of your own personal toilet deposits, how “relieved” you must feel to learn that the Commissioner is a far-right Republican. Oh, what a relief it is, no need for that Alka Seltzer Ron Wiggle. lol

      • But she isn’t far right. Her actions prove this. He wasn’t blaming everything on Dems. He was pointing out how stupid Tulare County citizens are especially workers from Valley Voice who focus on a DA race in Kings County than what is going on in their own County! According to Catherine, Sarah Hacker is a republican yet endorsed by liberal KC sheriff and ran against a fellow Republican. I guarantee she isn’t half as right as Fagundes is. Especially since she was never on a republican committee. Fagundes even puts the Republican party over Trump. Hacker is not a true republican,. She is a RINO. Barbara you seem really obsessed with toilets. You lost me in some of your comments about fecal matter

        • Guess you don’t know that Kings County is part of this valley and has a rightful place in The Valley Voice. Readership is just as plentiful in Kings County as it is in Tulare County. As for toilet obsession, I was trying to “clean” up what I was thinking, that the guy is full of sh*t and his comments were sh*tty to say the least. And yes, he thinks that any liberal is nothing more than a Communist passing as a Democrat. For the record, as a Tulare County resident I didn’t have a dog in the Kings Co DA race but as someone who has lived next door so to speak for 76 years and who makes frequent trips to that area, I was delighted to see Fagundes voted out and Hacker voted in. In the end it was Kings County’s choice to make, and I am all for freedom of choice.

          • It’s pretty dumb for Tulare County citizens to be so invested in another county. We don’t live next door in anyway. Catherine and Mark Pratter don’t know Kings County. They only know politics that’s why they promote liberal agenda. They praise libertarians and bash republicans. They state lies and hide any real information. I bet very few Tulare citizens showed up for the debate were Hacker had so much lack of passion she looked like a zombie. Old lady probably has iron deficiency. It’s sad. Valley Voice is just as corrupt and shady as Dave Robinson the career politician that bashes cannabis and tried to stop dispensaries that are bringing in thousands in tax revenue. Dave Robinson is just like Donald Trump. He puts his political agenda over the county and safety of Kings County citizens. Do you believe in the right to free speech? You do know that Valley Voice blocks citizens from their Facebook page and deleted comments on this website to silence citizens. Catherine Doe and her employee Tony Maldonado Jr manipulate the stories and comments to only show what they want. It’s media news worth than Fox News. It’s basically Newsmax, the same company that lost a lawsuit for lying. Ask yourself, why are old news stories not on the top headline of the website? Shouldn’t this be a priority? The fact is Catherine lives in Tulare County and Valley Voice is based in Tulare County. They don’t know Kings County and don’t invest enough in the KINGS COUNTY to say anything specific about the county. Even when writing about Hanford city council they uses cliche phrases like herding cats or it being a “circus” instead of just stating the facts. Tony Maldonado Jr is a censoring communist that is a coward who won’t have conversation with Kings County residents. Catherine Doe enables him. How does Valley Voice know anything about Kings County when they refuse to talk to anyone from Kings County? Context matters. Valley Voice on pushes the context the want. That’s why Catherine is trying to push so hard that Mikki is far right but won’t name the judge who appointed her. CONVENIENT

  6. FYI – Ms. Verissimo is a conservative Republican, even considered far right. The newly elected DA for Kings County is a registered Republican also.

    • Conservative refers to spending. She shown she isn’t for real justice. We don’t care about her christian views on abortion either. We care about her actions as a judicial officer which she completely failed. We all know how deadly Fentanyl is. This is inexcusable and unacceptable.

      • Conservative once stood for less government spending, law and order, and family values. The MAGA GOP gang has flushed those once revered values down the toilet. RIP

        As for Commissioner Verissimo, she wasn’t the only one who dropped the ball, but she will be the primary player who the foul is called on.

  7. If you know so much who hired Mikki Verissimo. The newly elected DA is a RINO. Anyone can register as a republican. Why would liberal Dave Robinson endorse her? Because she is a liberal

  8. Joanna Garland, here hold my beer while I catch my breath from laughing so hard! OMG! ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I really shouldn’t be laughing……sounds like you have dropped your basket. 🙂

  9. Go ahead and laugh but that’s a sign of being unintelligent. Shows you have no intelligent response, yet you still wanted to respond. It’s a sign of embarrassment also. Usually a reaction to being embarrassed. You have no intelligent rebuttal because you don’t live in Kings County. Nice to see you added unnecessary insult lol. God bless

    • You really like that word, “unintelligent” don’t you! 🙂 Have a nice day Joanna and good luck in living with your lack of support for the new Kings County DA. Sounds like you are in the minority being that she WON the election. Of course, I am assuming that you have the “intelligence” to comprehend that fact. Oops, if not then you have my profound apology.

  10. The overwhelming hate on both sides. … we must stop political hate speech .
    So, we can work together and effectively problem solve.

  11. Why would the court release someone who has booking charges before they hear from the DA office as to filing charges? The release order is dated 6/25 showing booking charges. Why would they not consult with the DA as to whether they’re going to file charges before releasing – which they did on 6/30. Seems to lack common sense.

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