From near my old hometown: a Torrence, CA, man gets sentenced to six months in jail for repairing a city-owned fence. Yes, California is completely insane.

He built a fence, a retaining wall, a patio and a few concrete columns to decorate his driveway, and now Francisco Linares is going to jail for it.

Linares had been given six months to get final permits for the offending structures or remove them as part of a plea agreement reached in January, when he pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor counts of violating the Rolling Hills Estates building code.

If he failed to do one or the other, Linares faced six months in county jail. ...

Richard Hamar, Linares' attorney, said he has never heard of anything like this.

"We're talking about fixing a fence that was on city property," he said. "He didn't build a Las Vegas casino. You put a guy in jail for six months because he repaired the city fence?"

The 51-year-old bought the nearly 1-acre property in the 4600 block of Palos Verdes Drive North in 1998. After tearing down an adobe house on the site and building a 3,000-square-foot French-style home, he began landscaping.

When Linares asked the city to repair the white three-railed fence behind his house, he was told it was on his property and his responsibility. So he replaced the termite-infested planks. Then the city reversed itself and said Linares had illegally built the fence on city property.

In October 2004, the city charged Linares with three misdemeanors: for not taking down the fence, having a retaining wall built higher than a 2-foot restriction and for erecting stone columns without a neighborhood compatibility analysis. Later inspections found eight other violations, including a lack of permits for plumbing and grading.

Having lived in Southern California and had occasion to deal with the various city bureaucracies, I can only imagine the headaches Mr. Linares went through trying to comply with the regulations.

At the sentencing, Hamar said his client was a good Christian man who has never committed a crime and who worked diligently - 142 hours - to try to resolve the issues with the city.

And the only reason he was not able to complete the stipulations of the plea agreement, he said, was because of the city's confusing building codes and negligence in rendering a decision on his permit applications.

Jailing this guy is a severe injustice, not to mention all the legal fees he's racking up. Repairing a fence has essentially ruined Mr. Linares' life, and no just society should tolerate such capricious and pointless prosecution.

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