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October 21, 2020

Santa Cruz Sheriff: Officer arrested on domestic violence charge

By Jacob Pierce, Santa Cruz Good Times News Editor

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SANTA CRUZ—A Santa Cruz County correctional officer was arrested in Monterey County on Oct. 2 for robbery and for assaulting a spouse or cohabitant. He is no longer in custody.

In a call with Good Times, Sheriff Jim Hart confirmed the news, which is available in Monterey County arrest records. The officer, Jesus A. Villarreal, is no longer working for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, said Hart, whose office has not publicly released any information about the arrest.

Hart did not offer further comment about the nature of the alleged crime. He did say recent incidents of misconduct by correctional officers have been troubling and hard on his office. 

“We do a lot of training around this,” Hart said. “Our supervisors are acutely aware and they’ve been briefed about the situation. But at the end of the day these people are adults, and they’re making poor decisions. We’ve made everyone aware that this type of behavior is unacceptable. And they’re paying the price. They’ve been arrested, and they’ve lost their jobs.”

The news comes not long after the arrests of two Santa Cruz County correctional officers for various crimes, including having sexual relations with inmates.

Detectives arrested 35-year-old Correctional Officer Jenna Baldwin on Oct. 4 on several charges, including sexual activity with an inmate, assault by a public officer and bringing contraband into a detention facility. 

Previously, Santa Cruz County Correctional Officer Jessica Smith was arrested Sept. 4. She was booked into the Main Jail on charges including sexual activity with an inmate, assault by a public officer and unauthorized computer access. 

Hart says each of the three officers resigned after the sheriff’s office opened an investigation into their behavior but before the investigation was finished.

Another then-correctional officer, Marco del Real, was arrested for sexual relations with an inmate in 2018. He served no jail time, according to a 2019 story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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