COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the recent violence in Columbus and several shootings happening across the city, many residents are questioning whether the people committing these crimes are getting off too easy with low bonds.
10TV spoke with some of the families of the victims of the latest Columbus shootings.
“Considering the seriousness of the charges, I really do think that the bond was too low. I mean, to me and my family is, I mean, what if it was your child?” said Reginald Moffat, whose stepson, Dontarious Sylvester, died in last week’s Tuttle mall shooting.
“If someone murdered your child, and you let the shooter or the killer out on bond that just basically set me and my family up for failure. What if we were to cross paths?” questions Moffatt.
John Rutan, a Columbus criminal defense attorney, said when it comes to shootings like the one at the Tuttle mall, there’s a lot more to the case than what the public sees.
“He wasn't shooting innocent people. He turned himself in, so is he a flight risk? He's not a flight risk. Is he a danger to the public? Fair argument,” Rutan said.
Rutan said he doesn’t know the suspect or the facts behind the case to argue for the defense, but adds, “before you jump down a judge's throat you should understand this - if he has no priors, if he's not fleeing - OK, he's not a flight risk. You don't just give somebody a bail because they're charged with a crime. Remember, protect the public, secure your appearance.”
Sylvester's alleged killer, Tyrone Gray Jr., posted a $50,000 bond and was released from the jail the day after the shooting. Gray was indicted a few days later and turned himself in to police custody.
Rutan agrees violent crimes should have tough penalties but said high bails prevent some offenders from getting the help they need to potentially turn their lives around.
“If someone has a drug problem, they don't need to be spending money on bail. They need to spend it on out-patient treatment, they need to spend it on medication, they need to spend it on counseling, not on bail,” Rutan said.
"But if they're a danger to the public?" 10TV asked.
"Hammer them. Keep 'em in there," Rutan said.
Jeff Simpson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge #9 said the low penalties are just putting criminals back on the street.
“The current bond situation is affecting crime on our streets because there's no jeopardy for doing the crime in the first place,’ Simpson said. “These are slap on the hands. Even committing a murder in some cases, an aggravated assault, manslaughter charge comes with a plead out. And there's simply no Jeopardy."
Simpson said low bonds like the Tuttle mall situation are not only dangerous but send the wrong message to the public about crime.
“But what does that say to the community? What does that say to the victim's family? What does that say to the criminals that see that to where they know that they can walk and take their chances in court or flee or do other things to evade capture when they're ordered to come back into court?” Simpson said.
10TV did reach out to the courts, but it is a federal holiday. We’re expecting to hear back in the upcoming days as lawmakers look to reform the bail bond laws.