The Real Story behind California’s “Game-Changing” Bail Case

Today’s headlines are flooded with bail reform stories.  Recently the Attorney General declined to appeal a San Francisco judge’s decision to release a defendant on his own recognizance after he had been held on $350k bail.  According to the headlines, the defendant was being held on an egregious amount of money when he stole an insignificant amount.  What the headlines do not tell you is that the man was charged with four counts including first degree robbery, first degree residential burglary, inflicting injury on an elder and dependent adult and theft from an elder or dependent adult.  He also has a documented substance abuse problem and multiple prior felony convictions.

The defendant in the case followed the 79-year-old victim to his apartment.  The victim gets around with the use of a walker.  The defendant then threatened to put a pillow case over his head and ordered him on the bed.  He stole $5 and a bottle of cologne from the elderly man after he gave him $2.  Bail was initially set at $600,000 but later reduced to $350,000 at a bail hearing.  The judge considered the circumstances of the offenses describing it as “basically a home invasion.”  The judge also took into consideration the defendant’s prior criminal history, offering the modification because of the defendant’s willingness to participate in a residential drug treatment program.

Without the additional information about the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history, it would seem excessive to set bail at $350k for stealing a bottle of cologne and $5.  It however would be an injustice to leave these relevant facts out of the discussion.

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