Last week, a female friend of this author was the victim of stalking. The stalker threatened her in a sexually aggressive manner over text, waited outside her apartment building, attempted to gain entry, and had an altercation with the victim’s mother. Like many stalkers, she knew the subject.
They originally met in 2003 where he served as a part-time employee/handyman at her place of work. He was a “good worker, consistent, respectful, and trustworthy.” After her employer dissolved, he remained in contact with many former colleagues and occasionally performed odd jobs in their residences.
It would be an understatement to say my friend now regrets contacting him about doing some cosmetic work in her apartment. He was to begin last week until…
Friday June 11th: Victim arrived home and found evidence the subject had been at outside her apartment building. He left sexually suggestive stickers on the (outside) door and commented on her social media.
Saturday June 12th: At 8pm the victim began receiving unhinged, menacing, and lewd texts. Other text messages stated the subject would be waiting for her outside her building.
Sunday June 13th (AM): Subject appeared outside victim’s building and had a verbal altercation with victim’s mother. Victim called the police. Police canvassed the neighborhood but were unable to locate him.
Sunday June 13th (PM): Victim locates subject while looking out her window and calls police. Subject is arrested for two counts of stalking. Judge issues an order of protection and releases the subject. A court date is set for 12/14/21.
Monday June 14th: Subject immediately violates the order of protection (texting).
Tuesday June 15th: An arrest warrant for violating an order of protection is issued.
Wednesday June 16th: Victim speaks to the District Attorney (DA). The DA informs the victim that violating the order of protection afforded to her is not considered “domestic violence.” Hence, if he is re-arrested, they would have to release him again after 24 hours. Victim is informed that “their hands are tied” because of bail reform. Victim is advised not to return to her apartment without an escort and to move out of her neighborhood.
My friend has since been made aware that in May 2020, the subject stabbed his roommate of many years in a random unprovoked act of violence. The subject was remanded to a psychiatric facility and released. An order of protection was granted to the roommate. It was violated multiple times. The subject also sent threatening texts to several other former acquaintances and business contacts.
The stark reality is that protection orders often do not confer much protection because those who are most likely to be served one, are also the most likely to violate it. Stalkers and violent predators should remain in jail after they are arrested, pending a court date.
In a 2019 piece on bail reform, we wrote, “At The Quintessential Centrist, our view is that under most circumstances, cash bail should be abolished. Reason being, it is one of, if not, the most explicit example of legal discrimination currently being practiced in America. The use of cash bail is categorically unfair and a blatant violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, because it directly discriminates against poor people.” We stand by that statement.
When New York and other states eliminated and or greatly curtailed the practice of cash bail, we supported it, and we still do. However, with the elimination of cash bail came other aspects of reform that in our view, deserve scrutiny, including:
• Prosecutors can only request bail in particular felony cases
• Judges must impose “the least restrictive alternative” in lieu of bail.
• Almost all misdemeanors, nonviolent felonies, and some violent felonies result in the perpetrator being automatically released.
Back in 2019 we also wrote, “Of course, some exceptions should be made. Sometimes the accused are a legitimate flight risk or have a prior history that would indicate that they are a fundamental threat to society. Those defendants should remain in jail. Indeed, a number of factors should be carefully weighed in order to determine whether or not a defendant is released prior to his or her trial; but the amount of money in their bank account shouldn’t be a factor, and it most certainly should not be the only factor.”
Following the acute increase in violent crime over the last 18 months, this holds true now more than ever.
COVID-19 & Mental Illness
Since the advent of COVID-19, rates of anxiety, depression, suicide (and domestic violence) have notably increased. Quarantine, as prescribed by lawmakers for the sake of the greater good played a prominent role. Uncertainty about the future, adjusting to the “new normal,” and worries about economic security were also factors that contributed to the newly afflicted. Indeed, “Research suggests there could be an increase in the number of COVID-19-related psychosis episodes during the pandemic outbreak.”
The increase in mental illness due to COVID-19 coupled with ill-advised aspects of bail reform has helped create a volatile and unsafe environment in major cities throughout America. Concerning this, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea recently said “Judges need discretion to be able to keep repeat offenders and dangerous people off the streets…What’s the common denominator? People that are arrested multiple, multiple, multiple times and released.”
Reform and improvement are not always positively correlated. Abolishment of cash bail makes the judicial system more equitable. But prosecutors and judges must regain the authority – and use it – to keep violent repeat offenders off the streets, in jail, where they belong pending trial. And perpetrators of crimes who are mentally ill should generally be remitted to an appropriate institution where they can be in the care of trained professionals, not released. Until this changes, New York and other major cities in America will be caught in a feedback loop of crime, catch, and release.
Do Not Forget The Victims
Since this happened, my friend has been terrified, living in a perpetual state of fear. Her neck is in pain from constantly looking over her shoulder. She gets severe anxiety every time she hears her phone ring or alert her about a text message. She is having nightmares and cannot really sleep. The subjects’ roommate he tried to kill has been living in panic for over a year. He has spent thousands of dollars to relocate and on psychotherapy. These are just two examples of thousands of victims of crimes committed by people who should be either in jail or a mental institution until their case is adjudicated, not roaming the streets to commit more crimes. Victims deserve equal protection under the law too.