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Magistrate let go after giving accused drug smuggler $200 bond tells her side of the story

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Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-29 18:41:04-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Magistrate Vesta Svenson is being notified she will no longer be on the bench.

RELATED: Accused Mexican drug smuggler skips court hearing after posting $200 bond

Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny says a letter will be sent to notify her that her services will no longer be requested. He says the decision was made due to differences of an academic nature.

WXYZ reached out to Chief Judge Kenny to request copies of the documents this magistrate had when she made her decision. WXYZ had specific questions after sitting down with her one on one interview. He said they are not yet available, but that she would no longer be working for the court.

Court is run with bare bones staff on the weekends in Wayne County. Sometimes there are no detectives or prosecutors there to answer judges questions. On such a Saturday, on March 2, 24-year-old Jose Antonio Lopez appeared before Magistrate Vesta Svenson, a retired judge.

“I don’t remember anything in particular about that weekend or that case,” said Svenson.

She heard Detroit Police Chief James Craig criticize her for giving Lopez, a man allegedly caught with 6 kilos of heroin and cocaine, a $2000 ten percent bond. Lopez paid the $200 and was released. He is now a fugitive on the run who failed to appear for his court hearing.

Chief Craig says the bond should have been higher, since he is allegedly an illegal immigrant suspected of being a mid- to high-level international drug smuggler.

Svenson says she was shocked.

“There was nothing to suggest that when I did the arraignment,” she said.

She says if she had been told those last two facts when making her decision, she would remember.

“I don’t think I have ever known at that beginning stage whether somebody was a citizen or not,” she said.

“We must believe there was enough information there to determine whether this mid/high level drug dealer is a flight risk,” said Craig.

However when asked if he had seen the report given to the magistrate so she could make a decision on bond, Craig said he had not.

“Sometimes, if there is a report, it will just say the name of the defendant, whether they are on probation or parole and then give a recommendation for bond,” said Svenson.

7 Action News has asked police and the chief judge for a copy of the pre-trial services report which would provide information on the defendant to the judge. Chief Judge Timothy Kenny said he has not been able to verify that one was even provided in this case. He is still investigating. We will continue to try to get answers, but at this time we have no way of knowing what Magistrate Svenson could have known.

“Sometimes the reports from pretrial services are extremely sketchy,” she said.