Man serving life sentence to be released from San Quentin due to Proposition 36

Sergio Ayala imprisoned after 'third strike'

EL CAJON, Calif. - A man currently serving a life sentence will soon be released from a California prison thanks to relaxed standards of the state's "three strikes" law.

Sergio Ayala, who is serving his sentence at San Quentin prison, will be the second person getting a reprieve due to the passage of Proposition 36, which eliminated the mandatory life sentence for a third felony conviction.

California Western School of Law professor Justin Brooks said he recently traveled to San Quentin to share the news with the inmate.

"Mr. Ayala had given up hope and he put his head down on the table and started crying," said Brooks.

California voters decided the law was too harsh on non-violent offenders. Ayala's crime was theft after two burglary convictions.

"... The bad face of the three strikes law. He was sent to prison for the rest of his life for the theft of a $150 leaf blower off the back of a truck," Brooks told 10News.

The San Diego County District Attorney joined California Western attorneys in petitioning for a reduced sentence for Ayala. Most other offenders won't have that benefit.

Deputy District Attorney Gary Schons said, "We will oppose the release of any three strike offender who we believe poses a danger to the community."

Each case would be judged on its merits, he said, but violent behavior is the key.

"... violence in his past, violence or gang affiliation in prison and we will go into court and fight," Schons said.

In Fresno, the author of the three strikes law worries. Mike Reynolds, whose daughter was killed 20 years ago, sees trouble ahead.

"The first ones that are coming out are always going to be the ones that you're going to shed a tear over," Reynolds said.

He warns that criminals will see the law as weaker and become bolder.

"This was a very bad idea, and I think that Californians will come to the point where they will come to have regretted it," said Reynolds.

Ayala will be deported to Tijuana as soon as he's released from San Quentin. The process is expected to take several days.

Ayala, an auto mechanic, reportedly has family and a job waiting for him.

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