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Convicted of serious crimes, some criminals flee thanks to judges' generosity

Posted: 10:41 PM, Mar 29, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-30 18:47:08Z

The sexual assault victim speaking to 7 Action News asked that we not disclose or name or show her face. But she wants you to know her story.

She says she was victimized twice: the first time, it was at the hands of Francisco Salgado-Millan. The second, she says, happened in a courtroom.

"I feel like they weren’t here to help me, the victim," she said. "But they’re trying to help him."

Her story began last year, after she met Salgado-Millan on a dating app. After talking for about a week, the two decided to meet up one afternoon for coffee at a Detroit Starbucks.

"Did you ever make it to Starbucks?" asked Channel 7's Ross Jones.

"No," she responded. "He took me to his house because he forgot his wallet."          

When they made it to his home, his victim quickly learned they were alone. And that’s when she says she was assaulted.  

"He forced himself upon me and forced my pants down," she said. "I was trying to push him off me, but then he pinned my hands above my head."

Salgado-Millan ultimately pled no contest to criminal sexual conduct, agreeing to spend nine months in the Wayne County jail, two years on probation and receive sex offender counseling.

But rather than take him into custody at the time of his plea, Judge Kevin Cox continued his bond—a promise to come back to court. He put him on an electronic tether and allowed him seven more weeks of freedom before starting his sentence on January 25.

His victim received a call early that morning, telling her the assailant had cut his tether.

"They didn’t know where he was," she said.

By phone, Judge Cox said he continued his bond because prosecutors didn’t object, the defendant had attended all his other hearings and he was deemed a low risk of fleeing by the court.

Salgado-Millan is far from the only criminal fleeing from justice.  In Wayne County Circuit court, it happens often.

Angelo Ashmon already had an armed robbery conviction when he was found guilty of felony firearm, two other weapons charges and a drug charge last year. 

Facing at least two years in prison, Judge Bruce Morrow gave him another month of freedom before starting his sentence. He didn’t show up and hasn’t been seen in 310 days.

Morrow didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Steven Bart pled guilty to operating under the influence for the third time, set to spend a year in jail. He was given bond and skipped his sentencing. He's been free for the last 743 days.

"The danger, obviously, is those people are individuals who need to be behind bars and we hope that they don’t commit some type of assaultive crime," said Vonda Evans, a longtime Wayne County judge.

In 2015, Dennis Alexander pled guilty to felony firearm in her courtroom, a mandatory two years in prison.  She granted him bond despite three previous felonies and five previous misdemeanors, plus an out-of-state prison sentence for a drug charge.

Alexander never showed up to sentencing. He’s been missing 484 days.

Why’d he even get the chance to run?

Evans says, in part, it’s because of overcrowding at the Wayne County jail.  She and other judges sometimes resist locking up convicted defendants while they await sentencing, she says, out of fear if it could mean letting out someone else that’s more dangerous. 

"Had jail overcrowding not been a concern, would you have locked him up?" asked Jones.

"Definitely," Evans said.

"At what point do we consider the victim’s interests here?" said Dan DiBordino, the President and CEO of Crimestoppers of Michigan.

Too often in courtrooms, he says, victims rights seem to take a backseat to defendants, giving criminals the chance to flee from justice and commit even more crimes.

"A person who commits a heinous crime should not be given bond. It’s just that simple"

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.