Two Million Dollars Bail

News & SocietyEvents

  • Author Corrado Rosca
  • Published November 14, 2015
  • Word count 2,026

Wow. The Superior Court is not pussyfooting around on this charge. Victor Bennett of Camden New Jersey, last Wednesday night, allegedly hid in the dark between two parked cars and awaited the arrival of Officer Reed’s unmarked police car. When Reed pulled up alongside his position, Mr. Bennett unloaded his clip into Officer Reeds car and body and then ran away into the darkness of his densely populated Parkside neighborhood affectionately known as "Darkside" among the local criminals.

Victor Bennett, the alleged shooter was apprehended a few days later hiding in a garden shed of some unsuspecting homeowner in an adjacent town. He was still packing his automatic as well because the police now have the gun and have matched that exact gun to another shooting in Camden just one day before the cop shooting! Both victims, civilian on Tuesday and Official on Wednesday, escaped with serious but survivable gunshot wounds.

They haven’t charged Bennett with the Tuesday shooting and I suppose he will remember that he loaned the .45 automatic to his grandmother that day. He knows that a civilian victim will never testify against him for fear of getting shot up again. Why should the victim need to worry about encountering a loser like Bennett on the street again? Here is why; the guy is jail-proof. He makes bail. In his three short years of adulthood he has two illegal gun convictions, an unresolved sexual assault on a child and unresolved charges from two other shootings in Camden six days before he committed the rape. He apparently committed all of these violent crimes in just three years. We don’t know his juvenile record because that is secret. If his juvenile criminal history were to be made public it might hinder his chances at a fresh start as an adult.

The point is that he was legally on the street the night he opened up on the cop. No one event within this campaign of violence including the various attempted murders were enough, individually, to require his actual incarceration. He was allowed to pile up charges, indictments and crimes dealing with each one separately, entering his pleas, getting his bail bonds and showing up for his Court dates. That’s his day job. His night job is moving dope around and ambushing cops.

Criminal law is extensively studied by intellectuals and legislative panels. I am not one of those experts. I am just a citizen with an opinion. New Jersey recently reformed its Bail System. The reforms were probably pointed toward reducing the population of the hideously crowded county jails. The bail system in New Jersey seems to weigh every factor except the cumulative horror of the suspect’s actual street life. As long as he shows up for his appearances he can do whatever he wants during the rest of the week and pile on whatever charges he wants before the present ones are even considered or resolved. The crimes come A la Carte in New Jersey. Bennett is presumed innocent on the cop shooting and he is presumed innocent on the others that remain non-adjudicated. "Bail status to remain the same" the judge says he yawns at the conclusion of another pre-indictment conference. As long as Mr. Bennett is at the Counsel Table in the Courtroom first thing Monday morning, the Judge is not concerned with what he may be doing on the streets of Parkside last thing Tuesday evening.

As long as that one Ala Carte case is on track, then not that judge or any judge is going to be looking at the other half-dozen unresolved crimes in various jurisdictions or even the ones in the same jurisdiction. The parties are in Court to address one specific docket number and one set of allegations. The defense lawyer will jump up like a jack-in-the-box at the mere allusion to any of his client's other very recent and very serious crimes.

I don’t know what this man’s bail was on the child rape charge. Maybe is it was $100,000 and maybe Bennett got a $100,000 bail bond by putting down $1,000 and signing a zero interest note for the $9,000 balance of the premium.Maybe is it was $100,000 and maybe Bennett got a $100,000 bail bond by putting down $1,000 and signing a zero interest note for the $9,000 balance of the premium. The Bail Bond agency was happy to spring him from the jail on a promise to pay for the bond later because Victor Bennett does show up for Court and because some half-dozen family members most likely co-signed yet another bail bond installment purchase agreement along with Victor. Maybe his Mom came up with a Grand. However they swung it, Victor was legally out and about basically on the strength of a few signatures. The Bail Bond agency appreciates his business and they will be glad to do it for him again and again and again. They thank God that cop survived though.

The more amazing thing is that the new Judge on this brand new attempted assassination of a police officer has yet again offered this man freedom on bail! This time though the bail is two million dollars. Ooooohhh! Let’s see him come up with two mill. I guess its possible he won’t but much more likely that he might. It will not be in the news when he is released again.

People have the idea that the Bail agency brings over a bag of gold bullion and deposits it with the Sheriff. That is not exactly the way the industry works. They deliver a piece of pink carbon paper to the sheriff. The paper if you can read all the small print and hand printed names in various blank spaces solemnly promises that Lloyds of Lubbock Insurance Company will be responsible to the County for the full amount of the bail if this particular defendant skips on this particular charge and then can’t be found anywhere on the face of the earth. No money changes hands. I don’t know if any Insurance Company has ever actually paid one of these defaults. I doubt it happens very often, if ever. The Lloyds of Lubbock Insurance Company doesn’t really underwrite the Bond at all. The local Bail Agent has assumed all the risk on himself. Lloyd’s just picks up a flat fee for allowing the use of their name on the pink paper.

I have talked to enough of these criminal individuals to understand that they are focused on today only. To these habitual offenders the penalty starts on the day they are picked up on a charge and it ends on the day they waltz out of the jail on bail or whatever. They are out. That thing is over. Now they just have to keep track of their various Court dates and they can get back to that life they live before it was interrupted by an arrest. So here is my issue about bail, the money doesn’t mean a damn thing. Anybody can make any bail in this town. It is just a question of whether the price of freedom is low, moderate or high. Whatever it is though, that price can and will be met by anybody with any family connections at all. I don’t mean political connections I just mean a bunch of relatives that will sign the note for the unpaid bail bond premium. They just have to have a name and be able to fog a mirror. That's all it takes to produce a huge bail bond.

How about the other "conditions" of bail? The conditions that are typically imposed by the Court are like no conditions at all. No contact with the victim. Yes your honor, sure thing your honor. No contact for sure, we just wrote that down Your Honor. What if the Court was serious enough about public safety to impose some other actual affirmative conditions? You may remain free before trial so long as……..

a) You have no other charges pending at this moment that you are standing there.

b) You do not incur any new charges during the time you are on pre-trial release from this charge.

c) You have never been accused of carrying a gun illegally. I said accused not convicted.

d) You consent to a reasonable inspection of your living quarters.

e) You report to work or volunteer work somewhere everyday that you are out on bail except Saturdays and Sundays. One day missed and in you go.

f) You maintain a working phone number everyday you are out on bail. Out of service means in the jail.

g) You carry an out-on-bail card that you show to any police officer who has reason to ask for your identification. If you happen to forget to show the card then, your bail is canceled.

Anyone of these conditions (especially a & b) imposed after any one of the pile of crimes committed by Victor Bennett would have prevented the shooting of Officer Reed and of the other dude who remains unnamed. Any one of them would have kept Bennett in the jail where he apparently belongs. Apparently no one in our Legislature or our Judiciary saw any of these common sense conditions as reasonable and prudent. This dog was not just entitled to one bite he entitled to unlimited bites. Even trying to kill a cop with a gun did not warrant pre-trial detention. Incredible.

Again all these proposals would be part of a voluntary two party arrangement between the defendant and the Court. Nobody has to accept any of these conditions. They are welcome to tell the Court thanks but no thanks and then do what OJ Simpson did. He settled into jail and demanded his speedy trial. Bang-bang-bang Johnnie Cochran rhymed, OJ tried a glove on and he was home without ever obtaining a bail bond and without piling on new charges before the old ones were tried.

That’s was OJ. I do favor a fair bail system. I sure hope if I were ever arrested that XYZ Bail Bond Company would spring me from the County on the strength of my homeless friend’s signature while I did my best to bring the wheels of Justice to a grinding halt. If that happened to me and XYZ came through for me, I would appreciate the chance to sleep in my own bed I would respect the law at least until my case was over.

This man Bennett used the system as he was permitted to do so that he could ride around the City at night shooting cops with an illegal handgun. I have to say that it was not unforeseeable that he was capable of doing that exact thing. He was already known to act just that way. I would like to blame his freedom to terrorize the City on some particular Judge but it goes way beyond that. Any and all judges apparently would have set him free to continue his spree. The Judges wear blinders just like the horses at the race track. They only see what is immediately in front of them on their docket. They don’t see the corner of Kenwood Avenue and Park Boulevard at 1 AM. They don’t see the three year saga of an unrepentant cop-shooting gangster. They just see a code section on a police report and a schedule of reasonable bail to apply to each offense. They don't know or don't care that the bail system is a corrupt joke and they are not in the least concerned with his past, pending and future crimes. They only care if their little Courtroom and their precious calendar is administered in any efficient and orderly manner. They are really not concerned with crime or public safety at all. So the young man who stands before them "presumed innocent" can be assured that he will momentarily be released again so that he can continue his frantic life of violent crime while the various Courts he is involved with move at their accustomed snail’s pace. Welcome to New Jersey.

The author is a licensed Attorney and a resident of New Jersey. He is not a criminal lawyer and not acquainted with the individuals mentioned or involved in the events described here except as an observer and commentator.

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