Several readers sent us a link to this news story regarding Mayor Riley's and Chief Mullen's "Stand Up Charleston Initiative". We thought we would say a few words about it. You folks know we support our law enforcement officers in any way we can.
Unfortunately we find it necessary to publish this very public spanking of Chief Mullen and Mayor Riley. They were very deceptive with the information they disseminated to the public today. In typical fashion the press failed to ask the hard questions. They simply wrote down what their favorite politician said and reported it to you, the citizens, as gospel. We find it shameful that the words 'reporter' and 'transcriptionist' have now become largely synonymous in the journalism 'profession'.
Before we begin the discussion, let's review a couple of statutes taken from the SC Bench Book for Summary Court Judges.
§ 17-15-30(B) requires that the court consider the accused's criminal record, if any, charges pending against the accused at the time release is requested, all incident reports generated as a result of the offense charged, if available, and whether the accused is an alien unlawfully present in the United States, and poses a substantial flight risk due to his status.
§ 17-15-30(C) provides that prior to or at the time of the hearing, law enforcement, the local detention facility officer, or local jail officer attending the hearing shall provide the court with the following information if available: the accused’s criminal record, any charges pending against the accused at the time release is requested, all incident reports generated as a result of the offense charged, and any other information that will assist the court in determining conditions of release.
§ 17-15-30(D) provides that the law enforcement officer, local detention facility officer, or local jail officer shall inform the court if any of the information required in subsection (C) is not available at the time of the hearing and the reason the information is not available. Failure on the part of the law enforcement officer, local detention facility officer, or local jail officer to provide the court with the information required in subsection (C) does not constitute grounds for the postponement or delay of the hearing.
Now, let's read a pull quote from the news story linked above at WCSC's site.
"Mayor Riley also announced a new bill is on its way to Governor Nikki Haley's desk that will make changes to the bond process.
Senate Bill 45 will allow a magistrate to consider a person's criminal record and pending charges when setting bond, according to Mayor Riley. He says the bill will also make it likely that bail will be rejected for repeat violent offenders."
Given the fact that Section 17-15-30(B) already REQUIRES a judge to consider the defendant's criminal history prior to setting bond, we fail to see what Riley and Mullen hope to accomplish here. Once we read the the wording for the Senate Bill 45 we see that Riley's reference to the proposed statute is, at best, misinformed and at worst, just a bunch of foofaraw.
Let's examine the summary of what the proposed statute will do. We apologize for the all-caps content, but that is how they do things over at the State Legislature website. This bill is sponsored by McConnell, Campsen and Ford. Our comments are in red.
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 17-15-30, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED BY THE COURT WHEN DETERMINING RELEASE OF A PERSON ON BOND, SO AS TO DELETE REFERENCES TO SPECIFIC LAW ENFORCEMENT ENTITIES AND INSERT ARRESTING LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY AS APPROPRIATE TO PROVIDE THE COURT WITH NECESSARY INFORMATION;
Simple administrative stuff here to clear up any confusion as to who should provide the necessary paperwork.
BY ADDING SECTION 17-15-55 SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE CIRCUIT COURT MAY CONSIDER MOTIONS REGARDING RECONSIDERATION OF BOND FOR GENERAL SESSIONS OFFENSES SET BY A SUMMARY COURT JUDGE, TO PROVIDE THAT FURTHER DEFENSE MOTIONS TO RECONSIDER BOND MAY BE HEARD BY THE CIRCUIT COURT ONLY UPON THE DEFENDANT'S PRIMA FACIE SHOWING OF A MATERIAL CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES, TO PROVIDE THAT MOTIONS BY THE STATE TO REVOKE OR MODIFY A DEFENDANT'S BOND MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, STATE WITH PARTICULARITY THE GROUNDS FOR REVOCATION OR MODIFICATION, AND SET FORTH THE RELIEF OR ORDER SOUGHT, AND TO PROVIDE THAT, IF THE STATE'S MOTION TO REVOKE OR MODIFY BOND INCLUDES A PRIMA FACIE SHOWING OF IMMINENT DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY, OR IMMINENT DANGER TO THE DEFENDANT, OR FLIGHT BY THE DEFENDANT, THE CHIEF JUDGE OR PRESIDING JUDGE SHALL CONDUCT OR ORDER AN EMERGENCY HEARING WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS;
In South Carolina the term 'circuit court' refers to what most citizens generally understand to be General Sessions Court. 'Summary court' refers to courts headed by municipal judges and county magistrates, e.g. traffic court.
TO AMEND SECTION 17-15-10, RELATING TO RELEASE OF A PERSON CHARGED WITH A NONCAPITAL OFFENSE ON HIS OWN RECOGNIZANCE OR ON BOND, SO AS TO ALLOW A PERSON CHARGED WITH BURGLARY IN THE FIRST DEGREE TO HAVE HIS BOND HEARING IN SUMMARY COURT UNLESS THE SOLICITOR OBJECTS; TO PROVIDE THAT THE PROVISIONS OF ACT 115 OF 2012 WHICH AMENDED SECTION 17-15-20 OF THE 1976 CODE ARE RETROACTIVE; AND TO AMEND SECTION 38-53-50, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO BAIL BONDSMEN OR SURETIES RELIEVED OF BOND UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT ONCE THE REQUIRED AFFIDAVIT IS FILED THE SURETY IS RELIEVED OF LIABILITY ON THE BOND UNLESS OTHERWISE ORDERED BY THE CIRCUIT COURT WITHIN A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME.
This section will allow summary court judges, like Linda "10K" Lombard to set bonds for offenses like 1st Degree Burglary, Manslaughter and other offenses where the penalty does not include death. Only circuit court judges can set bonds on these offenses at the moment. We aren't too sure about allowing county magistrates, whom we have shown set ridiculously low bonds time and time again, to set bonds on even more serious charges. This appears to be an effort to allow less qualified judges to set bonds on the most serious charges.
As we can see by reading the proposed changes, there is nothing there about requiring judges to consider criminal histories and pending offenses when setting bonds. THAT REQUIREMENT IS ALREADY SET FORTH IN SOUTH CAROLINA LAW.
When a police officer makes an arrest he/she spend hours typing up warrant affidavits and incident reports. All of this information goes into a file, along with a printed copy of the defendant's criminal history (rap sheet) and is presented to the judge presiding over the bond hearing. Criminal histories contain detailed arrest and conviction information and also contain information about pending charges. This is required by law. As we have seen countless times, bond judges seem to give this information very little weight.
In light of the recent hue and cry by the public over the execution of Marley Lion in a West Ashley parking lot, it would appear Riley and Mullen were engaging in political theater in an effort to abate the heat we are sure they have been feeling. While the stated goals of the 'Stand Up Charleston Initiative' are admirable, this sleight of hand by Riley tends to make the whole thing look rather pathetic and causes us considerable concern that the whole thing is nothing more than a poorly designed effort to alleviate the pressure being applied by an irate citizenry.
Apparently Mayor Riley and Chief Mullen don't bother to read Charleston Thug Life or the comment sections of the various news sites. Many citizens of the Lowcountry have been stepping up for years and providing information. As far as we know we have yet to receive a response to our request for any anonymous CPD officer to help us out in identifying the Ardmore thugs we have profiled, but quite a few CITIZENS have generated leads in our comment section, the comment section of the media sites and in our e-mail.
We will withhold judgement on this initiative for now. We would also suggest Mayor Riley admit he was either misinformed about Senate Bill 45 or that he purposely misled his constituency.
Lacking either of those admissions and in the interest of justice we would encourage the citizens of the Lowcountry to continue assisting and supporting your law enforcement officers. Citizens should also keep turning the heat.
Update 2: Was the 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson present when Riley lied about the bond hearing process? If so, she should have spoken up to correct him. The fact that she didn't tells us all we need to know about her and and her continued tenure as solicitor.
Was Harve Jacobs present when the Mayor lied? Harve attends a LOT of bond hearings and he should know better, too. Why didn't he ask the hard question and put the Mayor on the spot for spewing misinformation?
Give them all a call on Monday and ask the hard questions yourself, citizen.