By Jim Holt
Signal Senior Staff Writer
The corridor of the Santa Clarita Courthouse is empty Tuesday morning save for one man sitting on a bench. He’s the father of local heroin addict James Fusca.
Father and son have same first name, Kenneth. It’s the name of his son - Kenneth James Fusca - that appears over his head on the blue digital screen listing all the people scheduled to appear in court.
Beside James’ name are five crimes, all misdemeanors.
His father pecks at his cell phone as he waits for his son to be escorted into court from jail.
Incarceration is the culmination of seven years of struggle - from the time his son began smoking pot at age 12 to the more recent times of his son injecting heroin, from the broken promises and tearful intervention and placement in rehab on May 5.
The latest chapter in the story about James and his struggle to overcome heroin addiction - despite the intervention and rehab, despite being kicked out of rehab for bad behavior but then taken back in - now plays out behind bars.
How did the lanky 6-foot-2 young man with the soft hazel eyes who promised, crying to his father, he would change, suddenly find himself out of rehab and in jail?
A head butt. That’s the unconfirmed tipping point for a skirmish with a rehab staff member late last month.
Police were called and, and when they arrived, they found outstanding warrants for James’ arrest. That’s all they needed.
What they found was a trail of court documents as easy to follow as bread crumbs which typically lead from drug-related misdemeanors to more serious crimes and felonies.
For James, however, his five offenses as an adult are all misdemeanors - small crimes such as petty theft.
Inside courtroom #2 at the Santa Clarita Courthouse, the judge flips through the James Fusca folder which contains details on each of the petty crimes.
James’ petty crime rap sheet began on Feb. 24, 2016, when he was arrested for defacing and damaging property that resulted in less than $400 damage.
At that time, he was unemployed and living at home with his family in Saugus.
When he was arrested by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station, they set his bail at $1,000. Within six hours of his arrest, however, bail was posted and James was out of jail.
A year went by without a run-in with cops, but in February of this year, all that changed.
Now James stands accused of five misdemeanor crimes.
On Feb. 11, James - who confessed during his intervention last month that he would steal anything in order to get money for heroin - was arrested for shoplifting.
Arresting deputies augmented the charge to reflect an emerging trend: shoplifting after a specified prior conviction.
They arrested James for shoplifting just before 6 p.m. that day and set bail at $7,250. A week later, on Feb. 18, however, he was released from jail.
On Feb. 19, he was arrested for hit and run.
A month later, James was arrested again - and, again, accused of stealing. He was arrested on March 28 on suspicion of petty theft, still a misdemeanor. Bail was set at $1,000.
Within nine hours of his arrest, bail was paid and James was again a free man.
James was arrested a fifth time on the afternoon of April 23, on suspicion of using or being under the influence of a controlled substance and possessing a smoking device.
Bail, as before, was set at $1,000. And, as before, bail was posted about 18 hours later.
A fifth misdemeanor complaint, James is accused of four misdemeanor counts of petty theft, and one misdemeanor count of petty theft not exceeding $50, all in relation to incidents between January and March.
On Tuesday, for the second time in two weeks of scheduled court appearances, James Fusca is a no-show in court.
Charged with misdemeanors - five of them - James has the option of having a lawyer appear in court on his behalf.
On Tuesday, that’s what he decides.
The public defender asks the judge to have the case against James Fusca heard a later date, explaining that she’s trying to work out a “disposition.”
The judge orders James to return to court on June 23.
Outside of court, James’ father is still waiting. But, he will have to wait another day to see his son.
Cary Quashen who runs the rehab where James had been staying, has been talking to the public defender.
Quashen says only that a tentative plan is being considered to have James reside in rehab for nine months under court order.
For James, it would mean a return to rehab in Piru where he’s already carved out a short and checkered past for himself in just one month.
“Sometimes the wreckage of their past comes back to haunt them,” Quashen says, reflecting on the young man’s brief criminal history and a rap sheet exempt of felonies - for now.