Tag Archives: New Jersey

Cory Booker signaling a presidential 2020 run with visit to New Hampshire?

Go for it, Spartacus. You ain’t got a chance…

From NY Post: Cory Booker is returning to the first-in-the-nation primary state for a trip that could turn out to be a tuneup for the New Jersey senator’s potential Democratic presidential campaign.

Booker’s been invited by the New Hampshire Democratic Party to headline their post-midterm election “Victory Celebration” Saturday in Manchester. He’ll also be the main attraction at house parties in Concord, Nashua, and Keene.

Booker’s said repeatedly in recent weeks that he’ll take the holiday season to assess whether he launches a White House campaign.

The visit is Booker’s second to New Hampshire in two months. He campaigned with now-Congressman-elect Chris Pappas and gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly at a rally at the University of New Hampshire, and with Congresswoman Annie Kuster at Dartmouth College in late October, shortly before the midterm elections.

Remember his “Spartacus” moment? From Fox News:

“Booker, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was one of the leaders in the push against the confirmation of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh — and raised eyebrows by, in one particular flourish, comparing himself to Thracian gladiator Spartacus.

The Associated Press reported that Booker has been particularly aggressive in his push for a 2020 bid and has been courting activists and prospective staff. Booker told PIX11 that he will take time over the holidays to “sit back and meet with family, friends and advisors and decide whether to run for re-election which has been my sole focus or now begin to think about running for president.”

“This holiday season will be a great time for me to sit down … bring together folks and make a decision,” Booker said. “Not about what’s best for me but really with what I believe in my heart is best for the country demorat agenda.”

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Illegal alien killed three people after release from sanctuary county in New Jersey

Illegal alien Perez got a free pass in Middlesex County/AP Photo

From Fox News: An illegal alien accused of a triple murder in Missouri was previously jailed and released in New Jersey on domestic violence charges, authorities said, putting the spotlight on the conflict between local and immigration authorities nationwide.

Luis Rodrigo Perez, 23, a native of Mexico, is charged with fatally shooting two men and wounding two others on Nov. 1 and fatally shooting a woman the next day.

He was being held on domestic violence charges at the Middlesex County Jail in New Jersey in December 2017 and was released in February, NJ.com reported.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said they placed a detainer on Perez while he was in custody, but the request was not honored nor was the agency notified when he was let go, said Corey Price, acting executive director of ICE.

“Yet again, an ICE detainer was ignored and a dangerous criminal alien was released to the streets and is now charged with killing three people,” Price said. “Had ICE’s detainer request in December 2017 been honored by Middlesex County Jail, Luis Rodrigo Perez would have been placed in deportation proceedings and likely sent home to his country – and three innocent people might be alive today.

“It is past time that localities realize the perils of dangerous sanctuary policies and resume their primary goal of protecting their residents,” Price added.

In an email to the Associated Press, Middlesex County officials said the detainer wasn’t honored because it didn’t meet the necessary criteria. “This order would have authorized Middlesex County to turn over custody of Mr. Perez prior to, or upon completion of his sentence,” they wrote. “Instead ICE officials chose to do nothing, which places all responsibility of Mr. Perez’s actions squarely upon ICE.”

The county said it adopted a policy last year of honoring detainer requests from ICE if the inmate has convictions for first- or second-degree offenses or is ordered deported by a federal judge.

During Perez’s stint in jail, ICE never requested an order of deportation against Perez, county officials wrote.

Missouri law enforcement officials believe Perez and Aaron Anderson, 19, killed their ex-roommates Steven Marler, 38, and Aaron Hampton, 23, after they were kicked out of their Springfield home.

Perez is also accused of killing a 21-year-old Sabrina Starr the next day at her house. He is charged with eight felony counts in the shootings.

Read the whole story here.

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How is this possible? Despite strict gun control laws, NJ arts festival shooting leaves 22 injured

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On June 13, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed six bills aimed at eliminating gun violence infringing upon our Second Amendment rights. Those bills included: expand gun background checks, tighten the handgun carrying permit process, reduce the legal capacity of ammunition magazines and establish a so-called “red flag” law.
Even before these bills, New Jersey had some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation.
A shooting occurred over the weekend that injured over 20 people. Guess the governor needs to sign off on MORE gun control laws…
From Fox News: Nearly two dozen people were injured after gunfire broke out early Sunday during a fight at an all-night art event in New Jersey’s capital city, leaving one suspect dead which authorities said appeared to be caused by “neighborhood beef.”
(The dead suspect had just been released from prison.)
Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said at a news conference that a total of 22 people were injured in the shooting, 17 of whom were treated for gunshot wounds at nearby hospitals. A second suspect is in custody.
“It’s a massive crime scene,” Onofri said.
Two suspects opened fire shortly before 2:45 a.m. at the 24-hour Art All Night show in the Roebling Market section of the city, according to Onofri, who told The Associated Press a “neighborhood beef” was behind the shooting.
The event began Saturday afternoon and was scheduled to continue until Sunday afternoon and typically draws thousands of people. The festival showcases local art, music and food.
“This is truly a tragedy for Trenton,” Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said. Four people are listed as in critical condition, including a 13-year-old boy who is in “extremely critical condition,” according to Onofri.
Police have identified at least two suspects in the shooting. One, a 33-year-old man, was pronounced dead while the other was taken into police custody. Onofri said authorities “believe” the suspect who died was shot and killed by police. Trenton police at the scene told NJ.com that officers engaged with at least one gunman.
Authorities are now combing through the warehouse where the shooting took place as part of the investigation. Onofri said that “multiple weapons” were recovered at the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter the agency is “actively assisting” Trenton and New Jersey State Police with the shooting.
Onofri said that authorities are also investigating an attempted carjacking that took place in the area after the shooting. Three people were in a vehicle when a man came up and pointed a gun at them, the prosecutor said. Their vehicle sustained “some damage” during the confrontation, he added, without releasing further details.
A witness told The Trentonian he witnessed a fight break out before gunshots rang out, with several punches being thrown. “I saw two punches and then heard several gunshots,” Franco Roberts said.
Roberts told the newspaper he thought something bad was going to happen because there were “more people outside than in the warehouse” standing around.  “Everybody ran toward the door,” he said. “And the people fighting and shooting got mixed with the crowd that was running and they went out the door shooting.”
Angelo Nicolo told WPVI that he and his brother were at the event when they heard loud popping sounds, and that people started running down the street. “And all of a sudden, my brother goes to me, ‘You hear that gunfire?’ I go, ‘It sounds like fireworks.’ He said, ‘No, that’s gunfire.’ Next thing you know, we turn around and everybody’s running down the street. All hell broke loose,” Nicolo said.
The Trenton resident said he saw one person with a gunshot wound to the leg. “I saw two police officers escort a guy that got shot in the leg; they bandaged him up and whisked him away before the ambulance came here,” he told WPVI. “It was pretty gnarly.”
The event was billed as a showcase for more than 1,500 pieces of art. Authorities said that about 1,000 people were in the area when the shooting started and people stampeded.
“Devastated by last night’s shooting at Art All Night Trenton,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter. “We must eradicate the scourge of gun violence from our communities.”
Read the rest of the story here.
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Today's outrage: Shooting range billboard says "the only time we take a knee…"

jersey shooting range billboard
Rather Annoying Communist Inspired Silencing Tactic.
From Philly.com: A  gun range in Camden County is resisting calls to take down two billboards that activists say aggravate racial tensions and mock NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with race,” said Wesley Aducat, owner of the South Jersey Shooting Club in Winslow Township, which put up one of the billboards several weeks ago near Route 73 in Voorhees Township. The second appears on a digital sign near Routes 73 and 130 in Pennsauken. “It’s just support for our veterans.”
The signs say: “The only time we take a knee…” and show the silhouette of a person shooting a rifle, with the website of the club at the bottom.
Aducat said he supports the right to protest but doesn’t agree with kneeling during the anthem, particularly since many of the club’s members are veterans. He said he has no plans to remove the billboards.
That has upset the NAACP’s Camden County East chapter. It says the signs twist the message of kneeling, which is meant to bring attention to systemic racism and police brutality against people of color.
“We’re talking about police murdering unarmed black people,” NAACP member Keith Benson Sr. said. He called the signs racially divisive and has encouraged people to call the club to complain. “They deserve all the disrespect they’re going to get as a result of putting it up. But they probably thought they were clever. They probably thought they were strong, patriotic Americans.”
South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, a group that formed after the 2016 presidential election to empower women, has also told its members to call the club. Susan Druckenbrod, one of the group’s members, said she recently talked to an employee: “I told them the billboard was offensive, and he said, ‘That’s nice,’ and he hung up.”
Druckenbrod had one word for the billboards: “Racist.”
“We’re living in a very difficult time right now. People are trying to stand up for black and brown people to say, ‘Hey this is not right,’” she said. “That sign really is just mocking the idea of taking a knee.”
The shooting club, which says it is affiliated with the National Rifle Association and requires members to join the NRA, operates along Piney Hollow Road in Winslow, just off the Atlantic City Expressway. (Carmen Console, the club’s membership director, said he had nothing to do with the billboards, despite being named in social media posts as the person to call).
On the club’s Facebook page, people left comments both supporting (“Love the sign on 73!”) and criticizing the signs. One woman wrote, “I’m sure there’s a way to advertise responsible common sense firearm training and use that’s not offensive.”
Read the rest of the story here.
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Kamala Harris: The Democratic message is "telling the American public we see them"

kamala harris

Kamala Harris: Womyn unshackled…


So inspirational!
From Yahoo: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said that Democrats have a message “much bigger” than opposing President Trump and that the party is focused on telling Americans “we see them.”
“The issues are not simple, so the message is not going not be simple,” Harris told Yahoo News in a small gaggle of reporters after she gave a speech at the “Women Unshackled” criminal justice conference Tuesday morning.
Harris said Democrats should not have a “monosyllabic” simple slogan, but instead focus on issues that matter to Americans, like jobs, the economy, health care, climate change and criminal justice reform.
“It’s going to be multitiered, but essentially it’s about telling the American public we see them,” Harris said of the Democrats’ message. “All Americans want to know that they are healthy, that their children and their parents are going to have access to health care and dignity. All Americans want to know they can get a job and keep a job. All Americans want to be able to retire with dignity.”
“These are truths, and when we see people for who they really are, and instead of some demographic based on what a pollster looks at, I think we’ll all be better for it,” she added.
Democrats have struggled to articulate a unified message since Trump won. And the issue of the party’s branding sparked up again after a top House Democrat, Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., recently told the Associated Press that the message is “being worked on.”
Harris is a buzzed-about potential candidate for president in 2020 and has already raised significant amounts of money for her Senate colleagues running in 2018. Harris has said she’s not giving “any consideration” to running for president, but Democratic donors are increasingly speculating about her as a top contender.
Harris’ criminal justice speech Tuesday to a bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists was greeted with enthusiastic applause, and the senator was nearly mobbed afterward with fans wanting to take selfies with her. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., are also speaking at the event, organized by the U.S. Justice Action Network.
In her speech, Harris criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for steering the country back toward another war on drugs, which she called an “abject failure” and “crazy.”
“We made a mistake when decades ago we decided to criminalize what is a public health matter,” Harris said, advocating for drug treatment instead of jail time for nonviolent offenders.
She also spoke of her recent visit to a women’s prison in Chowchilla, Calif., where she talked to incarcerated women who were making American flags. “I walked away thinking, ‘Isn’t it part of who we are as Americans that we believe in second chances?’” she said.
Harris, a former prosecutor elected just last November, has made criminal justice reform one of her top issues in her short time in the Senate. She has co-sponsored legislation with other Democratic lawmakers to ban the practice of shackling pregnant inmates, and she announced during her speech that she would also be introducing legislation to reform the bail process so that decisions about whether to release prisoners ahead of their trials is based more upon the security risk of doing so and not upon how much money the prisoner has.
The senator told reporters she’s “optimistic” that legislation could pass, even in a divided Washington. “I think this is something that should not be thought of as even bipartisan — this should be a nonpartisan issue,” Harris said.
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Connecticut spiraling into financial despair

dannel malloy

Gov. Dannel Malloy (Demorat)


Odd how high taxes can lead to a financial crisis…
From Fox News: While Illinois Opens a New Window. Connecticut has been under the microscope for its $15 billion backlog of unpaid bills, multi-billion dollar pension crisis and paralyzing political polarization, it is not the only state facing pressure to pass a spending deal by June 30.
The nation’s wealthiest state, Connecticut, is also facing a series of challenges as it remains unable to strike a budget deal with the new fiscal year approaching on Saturday. It is likely the state will enter the new month without an approved two-year budget, but a so-called provisional “mini budget” is still on the table. This last-ditch option includes $300 million to balance out spending cuts the state would be prompted to make in order to keep up with the deepening deficit.
Revenue shortfalls in the state register around $450 million for the current fiscal year alone, while estimated deficit totals are projected to clock in near $5 billion for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years combined, according to The Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Debt outstanding levels and unfunded pension liabilities relative to revenues are among the highest of any state in the country, Moody’s Investors Service said in May.
As previously reported by FOX Business, income-tax collections are projected to fall Opens a New Window. in fiscal year 2017 for the first time since the recession.
Connecticut’s financial despair comes despite the state government’s approval of one of its largest tax rate increases ever in 2015.
The three major rating firms have downgraded the state’s credit rating in response to the ongoing budget crisis. In its most recent downgrade, which landed Connecticut with the third-lowest rating out of every state behind only New Jersey and Illinois, Moody’s said “the downgrades reflect continuing erosion of Connecticut’s finances, evidenced by the pending elimination of its rainy day fund, growing budget gaps and rising debt levels.”
However, the situation could get worse still.
On Thursday, health insurance giant Aetna announced it would move its Hartford, Connecticut-based headquarters — after more than 150 years in the state — to New York City in late 2018. The company cited a lack of access to talent as one reason it was leaving its Connecticut base, and said Thursday its long-term commitment there will depend on the state’s “economic health.”
Earlier this year, General Electric (GE) announced a similar move, shipping its headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts.
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Montvale, New Jersey will not be a sanctuary city, mayor vows

michael-ghassali

Mayor Michael Ghassali


Laws and legal immigration still mean something to some politicians.
From NorthJersey.com: As a Syrian immigrant whose family fled Aleppo in 1980, weeks before hundreds of civilians were killed in a brutal siege, Michael Ghassali knows well the horrors facing today’s refugees.
But as the mayor of Montvale, Ghassali said, his allegiance is to the laws of his adopted country – even those he may personally disagree with. That is why Ghassali has vowed that under his administration, Montvale will not be a sanctuary city.
“I will not be signing any executive orders that will ask our employees to defy federal laws. A mayor should not be advocating the defiance of federal laws,” Ghassali announced in a Facebook post last week that has elicited both praise and condemnation.
The statement was in response to pressure from various advocacy groups that Ghassali said have approached him to declare the borough a safe haven for undocumented immigrants illegal aliens.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order last month suspending travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from coming into the country. The order has been blocked by an appeals court, and Trump has said he will issue a revised order. But it sparked protests across the country, and local politicians have taken a public position either supporting it or opposing it.
Trump also has called for a crackdown on illegal immigration. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a sweeping set of orders that authorize all agents to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more forcefully, instructing them to identify, apprehend and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter.
Several North Jersey towns have either approved or are considering resolutions to become sanctuary cities, a term that generally means local police would limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officers.
Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who is also a Syrian-born immigrant, issued an executive order in January declaring the borough a sanctuary city. “As an immigrant from a country ruled by a dictator, it is important to me that our commander in chief upholds the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land,” Khairullah said last month.
Ghassali recalled in an interview this week his experience entering the country at 15 years old and the hurdles his family faced.
In Syria, his father was a tailor, working hard for a middle-class life for his family of four children. Ghassali remembers always feeling safe in Aleppo, even at night. Nevertheless, the Islamist uprising, revolts against the secular government led mostly by the Muslim Brotherhood, had been brewing in the country since 1976.
“My father was wise enough to know what was going on. He told us, ‘At some point, this will not be a safe place to live.’ And he decided that we should leave,” Ghassali said.
In 1980, members of Ghassali’s family boarded a flight with green cards in hand and headed to New York City, where they had family from his father’s side waiting for their arrival. They settled in Dumont. Ghassali said he became a citizen in 1987.
“I know firsthand the vetting system is intense – it’s always been that way. I don’t know how much more intense it could get,” said Ghassali, a Republican who ran for mayor as an independent.
“I wish the administration spent more time analyzing the current process before issuing such an executive order,” said Ghassali. “They should spend the time to look at the current process before causing havoc among the refugees.”
Ghassali said he has family members who are refugees or have been killed in the war in Syria. “My whole network is either a refugee or has a family or friend who is a refugee. I feel it. It is very personal,” Ghassali said. But, he said, “I have to remove emotions out of this if I want to do my job.”
A close friend of Ghassali’s who attends the same Syriac Orthodox church in Teaneck has been in the country illegally for 15 years, he said. Ghassali said that declaring Montvale a sanctuary city would not change the reality of his friend’s situation. “He’s been scared for 15 years,” Ghassali said. “That doesn’t change when a mayor signs an executive order.”
Ghassali said he hoped his stance was not misconstrued as being against diversity. About one-fifth of Montvale’s approximately 8,000 residents are foreign-born, according to 2015 census. Twenty-two languages are spoken at home, Ghassali said.
Ghassali is married to an Iraqi immigrant. On his block alone, he said, his neighbors hail from India, Pakistan and parts of South America. “Montvale is not against refugees, against immigrants, against diversity,” he said. “We are as diverse as they come.”
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New Jersey Democrats push measures to protect illegal immigrants, vow to defy Trump

wisniewskiFrom Fox News: Sanctuary city advocates in one state with a Trump friendly Republican governor are digging in their heels in the face of President Trump’s threat to cut off federal funding.
Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey introduced bills this week calling on the state to reimburse so-called sanctuary cities that lose federal funding. And on Wednesday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski* introduced legislation designating New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” generally preventing law enforcement officers from initiating contact with immigration officials, and from using state resources for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws. *Wisniewski’s education includes a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law.
In addition, several towns that have significant immigrant populations have declared themselves sanctuaries, saying they will not reach out to immigration officials about illegal immigrants they arrest or provide a service to unless they are serious criminals or a national security threat.
“We are putting President Trump and his administration on notice,” said Wisniewski in written public announcement about his legislation. “New Jersey will not be a ‘willing partner’ to the unjustified and inhumane deportations of our neighbors and friends.” New York and California also have moved toward declaring their states sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.
Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has issued executive orders and directives aimed at border security and tracking down and deporting undocumented people illegal aliens.
He directed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and publish a list of sanctuary communities. Although no strict definition of the term exists, it is generally used to describe communities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The New Jersey measures have little chance of passing, given GOP resistance and Gov. Chris Christie’s veto threat, said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University professor of political science. “It’s more of a gesture to the immigrant community,” Baker told Fox News. “It’s a message to them that they would be protected against hypothetical actions by the federal government.”
In Maplewood, Mayor Victor DeLuca consulted with police administrators before crafting a sanctuary ordinance that became final at the end of January. DeLuca said police officials said they did not want the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws. “The police said ‘We don’t do it now,’” DeLuca told Fox News, “and there was a feeling on our part that wanted to make clear that there are distinctions between the role of the police department and the role of immigration officials.”
New Jersey has more than 500,000 illegal immigrants, according to estimates.
Republicans in the state legislature say they will not support sanctuary towns in any way. Christie, a Republican, says he will veto any legislation that would favor sanctuary cities.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement say sanctuary communities are violating the law. “To have lawmakers in Trenton say ‘O.K., we’ll show the president, if they withhold funding, we’ll pay,’ is violating federal law,” said Ron Bass, founder of United Patriots of America, a New Jersey-based group that pushes for strict enforcement. “It’s like the state saying to sanctuary cities ‘You rob the bank, I’ll drive the [getaway] car.’”
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Muslim mayor declares borough immigrant sanctuary

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Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah

Keep it up demorats. You are going to get Trump another four years with your disrespect for law-abiding citizens.
From NJ.com: Syrian-born Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah signed an executive order Friday declaring the borough a sanctuary for immigrants.
The order signed Friday allows equal protection treatment for all borough residents, regardless of immigration status. The move comes one week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria, from entering into the U.S.
“It is important to me as a person who came to the U.S as an immigrant, that we uphold our laws and values,” Khairullah said Saturday. “The U.S is the land of opportunity and dreams for many people all over the world.”
“No department, committee, agency, commission, officer or employee of the Borough of Prospect Park shall use any Borough funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of Federal Immigration Law,” the order reads.
Trump has signaled that he plans to take away federal funds from municipalities that declare themselves as (ILLEGAL) immigrant sanctuaries but Khairullah said he that wasn’t a factor in Prospect Park. “We are in a unique position that we don’t rely on federal funding,” Khairullah said. “Even if we were in that position, we would try to figure something out.”
Khairullah joins the ranks of other New Jersey mayors, such as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who have vowed to continue to protect (ILLEGAL) immigrants.
Prospect Park’s order recalls the borough’s history, founded by Dutch immigrants, and the continued diversity of its population. About a third of borough residents are foreign-born, according to Census data.
Khairullah was born in Syria and fled the country as a child. He later arrived in the United States in 1991. His political career started in 2001 when he was elected as a councilman in the borough. He has now served as the mayor for 11 years. Khairullah has long been an advocate for his native country and its embattled residents. This past September, he disclosed that he had lost two relatives in the ongoing civil war.
Khairullah, who has criticized Trump for his anti-immigrant stance, has also called out Gov. Chris Christie for his similar stance on Syrian refugees.
On Thursday, hundreds gathered in nearby Paterson to protests Trump’s travel ban.
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California considers an end to bail: ‘We’re punishing people simply for being poor’

rob-bonta

Proponent Assemblyman Rob Bonta

California: Where all decisions are now made under the interpretation of some fluid rules of “social justice.”
From Sacramento Bee: On any given day, most inmates in California jails have not yet been convicted of a crime. About 63 percent are being held awaiting trial, according to data collected by the Board of State and Community Corrections, an average of nearly 47,000 people. Federal statistics on the largest urban counties show that from 2000 to 2009, California kept unsentenced felony defendants in jail at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the country.
For state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the problem is clear: Bail is “just too expensive.” The median amount in the state is $50,000, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, five times higher than the national average.
Too many Californians find themselves stuck in custody because they cannot afford to bail out, the Los Angeles Democrat said, a personal crisis that can ripple across their lives in dramatic ways.
“They can’t pay their rent. They can’t pay child support or take their kids to school. There’s so many other consequences to that,” Hertzberg said. “That isn’t patriotic. That isn’t American. That isn’t the right thing to do.”
With criticism mounting that it creates unequal justice based on wealth, California is rethinking monetary bail. Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta are pursuing legislation this session to overhaul the practice, while Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye formed a working group in the fall to explore possible changes.
“The only nexus is between who gets out and who has money,” Bonta, a Democrat from Alameda, said. “We’re punishing people simply for being poor.”
Political interest in the issue has been surging nationally, with New Jersey and New Mexico recently eliminating bail for minor crimes. But any measure will likely face heavy opposition from bail bond agents, police officers and district attorneys who see the current system as integral to public safety.
Topo Padilla, president of the Golden State Bail Agents Association, said monetary stakes are the best way to ensure that someone appears in court after being released. “I can’t guarantee it either. But I have someone to back the game up. I have a co-signer,” he said. “And we do that at no cost to the taxpayers.”
California allows each county to set its own bail schedule by crime. In Sacramento, for example, rates range from $5,000 for possession of a controlled substance to $20,000 for resisting or deterring an officer to $1 million for sexual assault of a child.
Offenders can pay the entire amount, to be returned at the conclusion of their case, or apply for a surety bond through companies that charge a 10 percent fee. Those who cannot afford either option may ask a judge to adjust the amount based on factors such as their criminal history, the seriousness of the crime and their likelihood of showing up for their next court date.
It took David Howell 39 days and three requests for a bail reduction before he secured his release from the Sacramento County jail early last week.  In late December, the retired California Highway Patrol dispatcher was arrested on a charge of possession of a firearm while under a restraining order. He was stunned and “devastated” to find out that bail had been set at $200,000, twenty times the standard rate in Sacramento County for that misdemeanor.
At age 62, his only previous arrest had come in October, for a misdemeanor violation of the restraining order. He has disputed the allegations of domestic violence that prompted the order and his subsequent charges in court. Unable to afford the massive bail fee, Howell said, “I felt trapped.” For weeks, he could not take daily treatments for two eye conditions that are slowly making him blind.
Bail was eventually dropped to $100,000 and then, on Friday, to $15,000, in recognition of Howell’s short criminal history. After deliberating for two days about whether the money would be better spent on future legal costs and medical bills, he paid $1,500 for a commercial bail bond because fighting his case would be easier from outside jail.
“You feel like you’ve been thrown away. You feel like nothing,” Howell said. Despite his years in law enforcement, his faith in the fairness of the legal system is lost: “All the time I had been working in a dream world.”
Though Bonta and Hertzberg announced the bail overhaul as a legislative priority when the session began in December, nothing specific is proposed. Ideas have been floated to introduce risk assessment into the process, lower the schedule of bail rates or even do away with monetary bail altogether.
Consensus on a solution has not emerged, even among political allies. Hertzberg said he doesn’t mind the idea of someone bailing out of jail, as long as it is affordable, and his goal is not to put bail bond companies out of business.
Others working on the legislation, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of California, would like to see monetary bail eliminated. Legislative advocate Mica Doctoroff said the integrity of criminal justice is compromised when families have to pay a for-profit company to secure their loved ones’ freedom, potentially putting them into debt, even if the charges are later dropped. “You and your family can end up being forced to pay these fees for a crime you didn’t even commit,” she said.
The difficulties of mounting a defense from behind bars increase pressure on those who cannot post bail to simply accept a plea bargain and resolve their case, Doctoroff added. “Our existing money bail system has really driven justice and freedom further out of reach for far too many people in California, particularly low-income people and people of color.”
Read the rest of the story here.
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