Outrage over release of sex-assault defendant

A defendant in two decades-old sexual assaults has been released from jail due to concerns over the coronavirus behind bars.

Gregory Vien, 61, stands accused of sexually assaulting two women in 1997. But now, he's a free man, after his bail went from $2.5 million to zero.

"We vehemently argued against his release and against the lowering of bail to zero," said Teresa Drenick, Alameda County district attorney's spokeswoman.

Vien was arrested and charged last fall, 22 years after police say he attacked two women, one in Union City and the other in Livermore.

"It's outrageous that we're seeing a man charged with serious violent sexual assaults being released from custody at this point in time," Drenick said.

Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said, "This is not normal. This is not acceptable."

For now, instead of sitting at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Vien is on house arrest in Livermore, on an ankle monitor.

"We actually have members of our agency that have families that live right around the corner from this individual, so our own people are concerned," Kelly said.

The defendant's release has nothing to do with the emergency  "zero bail" schedule, which allows non-violent offenders to be released or cited because of the coronavirus.

KTVU has learned that the defense cited Vien's age and previous heart problems as reasons he could be susceptible to COVID-19 behind bars.

In a statement, his attorney Melissa Adams said, "In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr. Vien’s unique personal and medical circumstances, I argued that his bail should be reviewed. This was pursuant to the longstanding rule that bail may be reviewed if there is a change in circumstances from when the bail was set. In my opinion, COVID-19 is such a change. "

Vien had pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted a woman in a field near the Union City BART Station back in 1997.

Four months later, he allegedly attacked a second woman at Livermore High School.

Authorities say DNA and genetic genealogy tied Vien to both attacks.

Union City police were so upset by Vien's release that they publicly identified Thomas Reardon as the Superior Court judge who released Vien. The judge did not respond to a request for comment.

Vien's custody status will be revisited next month.