Local judges exposed for releasing habitual violent offenders on low bail

Posted at 11:32 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 15:44:06-05

Violent criminals are committing crimes in Detroit, only to be released back out onto the streets.

Police says its happening far too often, considering there are more than 10,000 felony cases a year in Wayne County.

Surveillance video in one instance, shows someone filling up at a Detroit gas station, and being robbed at gunpoint. Police say less than 48 hours later, the gunman was released back on the streets.

"When you look at some of the bails, for some felons in possession. I'll just put it this way. It's horrifying. Ex-con, he's a habitual offender. Got a gun. Gets out of jail for $200" says police chief James Craig.

Craig tells us the end result is, "There's no incentive for that person not to commit a crime."

Craig describes the problem as alarming, and says it also puts officers lives at risk having to catch the same violent criminals over and over.

While he says overall crime in Detroit has trended downward the past 3 years, police still can't do the job alone.

Craig says, "But, let's talk about the courts. The low bails.You look at 36th District, it's amazing the ridiculously low bails and, yes, it has an affect on us continuing to drive crime down. Oakland and Macomb counties seem to get it right. I mean, that's our neighbors."

In December, records show Judge Dalton Roberson Sr. released a suspected armed robber on $1,000 personal bond despite prior gun offenses.

In response, Craig says, "We ended the year last year with the lowest number of non-fatal shootings in well over 10 years. It was less than 1,000. But that's still too many."

In another case, on May 14th, 2016, a felon caught carrying a gun got out for $2,000. After his release, he allegedly set fire to his girlfriend's house.

Not to mention, countless other habitual offenders getting out and threatening victim's family members and intimidating witnesses.

Presiding criminal judge Timothy Kenny oversees cases mentioned by Craig, in Wayne County's 3rd Circuit Court. He supervises 24 judges, plus 9 visiting judges or magistrates on the bench for weekend arraignments at a rented facility in Romulus.

He admits, the system is flawed.

"I tell you what I think would improve things significantly would be a defense attorney there to represent the defendant and prosecutor there to argue on behalf of the prosecution," says Kenny.

He says often times, judges are alone in the courtroom during video arraignments and sometimes forced to go on limited information.

"These are judgment calls that judges have to make. The reality is judges are going to set a bond, based on info made available to them" says Kenny.

He adds "There's no judge that wants to put a dangerous person out on the street. Magistrates are dealing with limited information. They have pretrial services information they get, much of which is self reported from the defendant."

In response, Craig says "But still, there's a file and it shows this is a person with a substantial history. Now, Detroit Police have arrested him with a weapon and the response if $200?"

Craig says he's doing his part making officers more available on the weekends, but ultimately fighting crime requires a partnership between police, prosecutors and judges.

Craig says, "If you don't want it here, you have to set the appropriate tone. How about the rights of our victims, and people who live, work and play in this city?"

We also reached out to the Prosecutor's office for comment. So far, they've declined to talk about the issue.