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There was a tense moment in the Vista Courthouse on January 21 when a superior court judge ordered two Marines to release their 20-year-old prisoner into the custody of San Diego sheriff’s deputies. Michael Wells was expected by judge Daniel Goldstein to begin serving his 180-day sentence for a drunken driving incident last summer.

Two large deputies approached Michael Wells and reached for the handcuffs on their belts, but the larger of the two Marines flanking Wells informed the judge that they had been ordered to return him to Camp Pendleton’s brig. Both Marines secured their grips tighter on their prisoner while the deputies hesitated and looked at Goldstein for direction. Wells, who was shackled with chains around his waist and ankles, went pale and stared straight ahead.

Goldstein ultimately allowed the Marines to leave the courthouse with Wells, on orders that he be released into sheriff’s custody at the front gate of Camp Pendleton on February 28.

Wells had admitted evading officers “in a wanton, willful disregard of the safety of persons and property” in July of last year. Wells also admitted he was driving under the influence, for which he had a prior conviction.

Pictured: Michael Wells (center) walks away from the Vista Courthouse

Photo credit: Nick Morris

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