SAN ANDREAS, CA - The Calaveras County sheriff is being criticized for letting an inmate serving five years for trafficking marijuana to leave jail to attend his sister's wedding.
Bride-to-be Jennifer Pereira wrote a letter to Sheriff Gary Kuntz asking that her brother be allowed to stand in for their late father and walk her down the aisle at her Sept. 29 wedding.
"I'm kind of a sheriff with a heart," Kuntz explained. "He wasn't a dangerous person, so I allowed it."
Kuntz said he gathered the family together to lay down ground rules, which included two armed escorts for Edward Pereira, 39, on the 55-mile trip to the David Girard Vineyards in Placerville.
"No drinking alcohol, none of that stuff," Kuntz insisted.
Kuntz had previously allowed two inmates to attend a parent's funeral.
Someone apparently complained this time and the county attorney told Kuntz he violated the law by allowing an inmate to leave the facility in a non-emergency situation without a court order.
Some comments in the local newspaper have been critical, but others supported the sheriff's decision.
"He is one of the best things to happen to Calaveras County," wrote one reader. "Perhaps he made a procedural error, but he is a human being and will learn from the error."
Kuntz said he didn't mind being compared to Andy Taylor, the fictional sheriff of Mayberry.
"That's fine," Kuntz said. "It's great to be sheriff in a small community."
Kuntz said his department had a longstanding policy of allowing inmates to leave the jail under certain non-emergency circumstances, but said he was changing the policy immediately.
By George Warren, GWarren@news10.net