Thomas Garrett, 71, who served as commodore of the Coronado Yacht Club in 2009-10, was arraigned on three counts in South Division Superior Court in Chula Vista Monday. The counts pertained to committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14. Represented by local attorney Jim Pokorny, Garrett entered ‘not guilty’ pleas to all of the allegations.
The alleged acts occurred 10 months ago and Pokorny told presiding Judge Katherine Bacal during the 13-minute arraignment that he had been in phone and E-mail contact with Chula Vista police department authorities on the matter. He added that Friday morning’s arrest of Garrett was a surprise as discussions had been held that indicated Garrett would turn himself over to authorities when asked to do so.
After his arrest Friday, Garrett was held on $350,000 bail at the San Diego Central Jail. Garrett posted bail late Monday afternoon.
A motion by Pokorny to have Garrett’s bail waived, as he was not considered to be a flight risk, was opposed by the Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Ocain. Judge Bacal ruled that the bail amount would remain unchanged. Pokorny said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that since a pre-trial services report had not been filed during Monday’s session, Judge Bacal wasn’t able to change the bail amount. A hearing set for Thursday to address the bail amount was subsequently cancelled as Garrett posted the required bail.
Prior to the arraignment, correspondence related to the case prepared by Pokorny was accompanied by 101 written declarations of support for Garrett. The letters came from firemen who Garrett had worked with during his 32-year career with the San Diego Fire Department and from members of the Coronado Yacht Club. Garrett retired from the fire department in 1997 as a battalion chief. Garrett has been a member of the CYC since 1990.
In addition to the letters of support, a crowd estimated at 70 people was present for the arraignment in a show of support for Garrett. The courtroom which serves Department 12 only seats 31 people. With two local television stations present, the capacity was cut by another five seats to allow for cameras to be set up.
Allegations such as those found in this case are sometimes accompanied by a ‘stay away’ order. In this case, the principals in the matter are also next door neighbors. Although a formal request from the assistant district attorney wasn’t prepared in time for the arraignment, Judge Bacal stated that the stay, which stipulates that there be a 100-yard distance between the parties, would be granted when presented. The caveat would be that when Garrett posted bail he would be able to enter and leave his home.
The next date in the case is a readiness conference set for Friday, March 23rd, a concept explained by Pokorny. “That’s for me, the judge and the deputy district attorney to meet in the judge’s chambers to talk about the case, maneuver, compromise and settle the criminal matter. Statistically about 95 percent of the cases that start in court are resolved before a jury trial begins. The readiness conference is one of the stops along the way.”
Both Garrett and his wife Stephenie Garrett were subjects of an article in the April 7, 2011 edition of the Coronado Eagle & Journal that recounted their co-founding of The Amazing Race for Children’s Wishes. The event benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Garrets established the event because their granddaughter Chloe was a wish recipient and through her the couple gained an appreciation of the foundation’s work.