There has been a great deal of discussion recently over the role bail plays in American society. Political pundits who are rallying against bail reform cite instances of re-offense while the suspect is awaiting charges for another crime. Political pundits in favor of bail reform argue that the system is patently unfair and individuals charged with nonviolent crimes rot in jail for a year while the wheels of justice slowly turn.
Now, one charity is being scrutinized by the media after providing bail to inmates who then turned around and offended again.
Habitual Criminal Activity
Police arrested 34-year-old Christopher Stewart after he discharged a weapon at his girlfriend’s 6-year-old son’s birthday party. Witnesses said Stewart threatened the girlfriend and then discharged the pistol into the ground near the child. The girlfriend got an order of protection against him and Stewart was charged illegal possession of a weapon by a felon. Yes, Stewart had been to prison on four other felony charges prior to this one.
Nonetheless, the Bail Project, a local charity, posted the $5,000 bond for Stewart. A month later, Stewart was charged with attempting to murder the now-ex-girlfriend by setting fire to her apartment. Police were able to rescue her from an open window.
Cash Bail and Moneyless Bail
The charities in question, the Bail Project and the Chicago Community Bond Fund are both nonprofits that oppose cashless bail. While there is a lot of confusion over what cashless bail means, the project seeks to pay bonds for those held on charges as a way to perform an end-around on the cash bail system. The groups are part of a well-funded national effort toward criminal justice reform.
Some are blaming the Bail Project for giving Christopher Steward access to the woman he threatened to kill. Is that fair? Not really.
When a decision is made to set bail or offer bail, a judge hears arguments from both the prosecution and the defense. Regardless of what the judge hears, they have complete autonomy when it comes to setting bail. This includes the decision to revoke or deny bail.
Instead of a system in which the only determining factor in whether or not a suspect is released is whether or not they can pony up the dough, some say that it would make more sense and be safer simply to allow some out on bail while others are denied bail because of the severity of the charges or they are a credible threat to others in the community.
In this case, an individual with multiple felony charges discharged a weapon at a 6-year-old’s birthday party and threatened to kill his mother. He was released from bail and nearly killed his ex-girlfriend. Since he was a credible threat, bail could have been denied while the restraining order was still in place. But Stewart was able to pay his way out of it.
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If you are facing charges in Cook County, you will need a skilled criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.