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Mark Coke, former Ceres man with extensive criminal record, denied parole

Former Ceres resident Mark Edward Coke, 60, was found unsuitable for parole during an August 9 hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

Special Prosecutor Holly MacKinnon appeared to argue against his release.

In November 1998, Coke entered the hardware section of the Ceres Walmart, removed the anti-theft sensors from two micro torches, hid them inside his waistband and left the store without paying. He was arrested and housed at the Sheriff’s Honor Farm while awaiting trial but escaped. Coke was apprehended weeks later.

Coke’s extensive criminal history included prior juvenile adjudications for vehicle code and theft offenses for which he was sentenced to the California Youth Authority. As an adult he was convicted of possession of controlled substances and other drug offenses. In 1982, he was convicted of residential first-degree burglary and in 1985, after being released from prison he was convicted of attempted murder. Both crimes counted as “strikes” under California’s “Three Strikes” law making him eligible for a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.

In 1999 Coke was convicted of felony petty theft. He was also found to have been previously convicted of the two prior serious or violent felony offenses. On April 29, 1999, a judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the prior strike convictions and sentenced Coke to serve 25 years to life in state prison plus an additional term for escaping from the county jail without force. 

Since going to prison in 1999, Coke has violated numerous prison rules including possessing alcohol, drug paraphernalia, controlled substances (morphine and heroin), cell phones and batteries. He also refused to provide urine sample, committed battery on an inmate, and disobeyed orders. In 2015, he was convicted in Solano County Superior Court of possessing drugs or drug contraband in state prison and sentenced to an additional consecutive term which was added to his life sentence.

A prison psychologist said Coke currently posed a moderate risk for violence if released into the community. Coke’s documented ongoing problem with substance-related, rule-violating behaviors supported a finding of addiction and anti-social behavioral compulsions which also suggested he has maintained connections with antisocially minded peers while in prison custody. 

MacKinnon asked the board to deny parole, pointing out that Coke’s inadequate parole plans coupled with his lack of sustained sobriety and substance abuse treatment and participation made him an unreasonable risk of danger to the community if he were to be released from prison.

The Board denied release for three years stating that, although Coke had shown progress in some areas, his extensive criminal history and lack of internalization of the limited amount of programming he had done weighed against his suitability for parole. The board found that Coke needs to improve his parole plans, including developing a cohesive relapse plan before returning to the community. Coke also needed to participate in more targeted mental health and substance abuse treatment.

This was Coke’s first parole hearing. He previously waived his right to a hearing in 2021. Due to his age, he is eligible for elder parole consideration and may petition the board for another hearing earlier than in three years should circumstances support it.