Marin County teenager tried as adult gets new hearing under Prop. 57
The office of Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian is fighting to keep a man locked up in prison even though an appellate court has ordered a new hearing in his case to determine whether he should have been tried as a juvenile.
Max Wade, now 22, was sentenced in 2014 to 21 years to life imprisonment for two separate crimes he committed when he was a teenager: the theft of a Lamborghini owned by celebrity chef Guy Fieri (during which Wade rappelled down from the ceiling of a California dealership and drove it out the front door), and the attempted murder of a romantic rival. Although Wade was 16 and 17 when the crimes occurred, prosecutors elected to try him as an adult, saying that the crimes showed a level of planning and sophistication unusual for a juvenile.
But nearly three years after Wade was sentenced, California passed Proposition 57, which was designed to reduce the state’s prison population by putting a greater focus on rehabilitation. One of the key aspects of the ballot initiative is that it took the power to try juveniles as adults away from prosecutors and gave the final authority to judges.
Proposition 57’s passage was a major victory for criminal justice reformers who long argued that California prosecutors abused their unchecked power by trying too many juveniles as adults.
The 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled last month that Proposition 57 should be applied retroactively to Wade’s case. Notably, other appellate courts have come out differently on Proposition 57’s retroactivity, and that issue is now pending before the California Supreme Court.
If Wade ends up being prosecuted in juvenile court, he would have to be released by the time he turns 25, attorney Charles Dresow, who represents Wade, told the Marin Independent Journal.
Under his current sentence, the earliest Wade can apply for parole is 2040.
But Berberian’s office has vowed to keep Wade in adult court and the top elected prosecutor has criticized Proposition 57 as “poorly written and deceptive.”
“Max Wade was appropriately handled and sentenced in the manner that reflected his violent conduct,” Berberian said. “We will pursue all appropriate and available legal procedures to see his imposed sentence is reinstated.”