SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – A man charged in the kidnapping of an Irvine woman and holding her for ransom is set to be the first Orange County inmate to petition to be released on his own recognizance following a judge’s order to reduce the county’s jail population by half.
Ezra Schley, 72, of Huntington Beach, is charged with aggravated kidnapping for ransom and extortion in connection with kidnapping Jane Doe from her Irvine apartment and holding her for two days in an attempt to extort a large sum of money from Jane Doe’s husband and mother-in-law, according to prosecutors.
Schley faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges, which include one felony count of aggravated kidnapping for ransom and extortion, one felony count of residential burglary, one felony count of attempted extortion, and one misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm in public.
The inmate is one of four defendants charged in connection with the kidnapping.
They are also accused of sending pictures of Jane Doe being held captive to Jane Doe’s husband through a phone web chatting app, prosecutors said.
Schley’s potential release comes days after Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson ruled 1,858 inmates must be released from the Orange County jail to reduce the population by 50%. The jail currently houses 3,716 inmates.
Shortly after that ruling, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the decision is putting the safety of the public at risk.
“These aren’t low-lying offenders,” said Barnes. “These are people in for very serious offenses, like murder, attempted murder, and domestic violence.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer says the county’s jail population has been reduced by 33% percent since March and that now “the ACLU is fighting to release people who have been convicted or are awaiting trial on felony charges that could send them to prison for the rest of their lives.”
“These are hardcore criminals who are going to try everything they can to game the system so they can get out and commit more crimes,” Spitzer added. “The judge’s order is outrageous and I’m not going to allow Orange County and Southern California residents to be put at risk by the release of dangerous and violent criminals back into our communities.”
Schley is currently being held at the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail. His petition to be released on his own recognizance is scheduled to be in court Dec. 23.