Violent Offender Freed Early By California Commits Murder Just Weeks After Release

Micheal Xavier Bell

California officials say a convicted rapist whose sentencing judge argued he should not be released from prison was arrested in the murder of a Sacramento man just weeks after his release.

An employee at a Sacramento care facility was murdered by 36-year-old Michael Xavier Bell just 73 days after he had been released from a decades-long prison sentence, according to the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Michele Hanisee, President of the Association, called his early release “tragically predictable” and described it as “another senseless murder of an innocent victim.”

Bell’s release comes amid the state’s efforts to rehabilitate juvenile offenders not convicted of murder back into society under Senate Bill 1391. The legislation was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2019.

Hanisee argued that Bonta and other California state officials ignored impassioned pleas for public safety regarding this legislation.

This legislation did not include any safeguards to protect the public from the most dangerous juvenile offenders, such as Bell. Bell, who became an adult after being convicted as a juvenile, could not be returned to juvenile justice because there was no mechanism for dealing with their retroactive consequences.

“As a result, Bell was released from custody without supervision or services and without having received any sex offender treatment or rehabilitation,” Hanisee added.

The Republican candidate for California Attorney General, Nathan Hochman, responded in a statement.

“Tragically, but as predicted, Attorney General Rob Bonta’s support for a bill that allowed Michael Xavier Bell, a convicted, brutal rapist, to be released decades early from his sentence only to arrested 73 days later for murdering a 60-year old Sacramento man, proves how unfit Bonta is to be our chief law enforcement officer,” Hochman said. “As a result of Bonta’s actions, the victim’s blood is on Bonta’s hands.”

A court document indicates Bell was arrested in December 2000 after assaulting and raping a woman at gunpoint after breaking into her home.

“Bell and an accomplice took turns committing sexual assaults, sometimes pointing guns at the victim’s head and sometimes pointing guns at the victim’s 8-year-old son, forcing him to watch,” Hanisee said.

It was nine days before Bell’s 15th birthday when the incident occurred. A state court tried and convicted him as an adult in 2002 despite his age – a decision SB 1391 revisited.

“He was so dangerous and unrepentant that the sentencing judge stated: ‘It is this court’s intention that this defendant never, never get out of prison. This defendant is incapable of being rehabilitated. This defendant is not someone who should ever be allowed into society,’” Hanisee wrote.

Following Bell’s conviction for multiple counts of robbery, multiple counts of forcible rape, multiple counts of forcible oral copulation, kidnapping, and assault with a firearm, he was sentenced to 53 years to life behind bars. In the end, the sentence was reduced to 43 years to life after a lengthy legal battle.

In September 2016, this sentence was reaffirmed when the case was appealed. During her tenure as California Attorney General, Kamala Harris argued for the state to keep his long sentence in place.

Christopher Hawthorne, an attorney for Bell, countered that “the age 55 parole eligibility date violates the equal protection and cruel and unusual punishment provisions of both the state and federal Constitutions.”

According to the Court of Appeals of the 2nd District, the initial judgment was upheld.

During his time in prison, Bell remained unrepentant and had a violent history.

“According to records filed with the court, he was twice convicted of new felony battery cases while in prison and had numerous disciplinary write-ups wherever he was housed. In his last years of incarceration, he was charged and convicted of felony vandalism of government property for smashing the windows of the visiting area. He was even written up for the rape of another inmate,” Hanisee said.

Despite the violent pattern, California officials ultimately chose to release him.

John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.