TRENTON-Law enforcement agencies in Ocean County are shocked and upset this week after New Jersey’s bail reform law has put a man who police say offered a video game console to a child in Little Egg Harbor in return for sexual favors, back on the street.
Despite best efforts by the local police chief, Richard Buzby and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, the man was released back into the community without bail after being arrested.
Officials close to the investigation say the case against the accused sexual offender is a solid one, but thanks to a bail reform law enacted by the state’s voters in 2014 and red tape restrictions in Megan’s law, it’s the law enforcement community that is now handcuffed.
In 2014, New Jersey voters voted in favor of a referendum that made the The Bail Reform and Speedy Trial Act a law in the state.
Police said they cannot alert families in the neighborhood where the suspect lives, even though the offender, according to Police Chief Richard Buzby has a past history of targeting children, according to the law.
“For some time a sex offender who has targeted children in the past, has lived in this community in close proximity to many family residences, school bus stops and other points of interest to children,” Buzby said. “Despite the best efforts of the county prosecutor’s office and this Agency to the contrary, the current state of Megan’s Law is such that this particular community cannot be notified until the sex offender rating process is completed and a tier is established that will allow such a notification.”
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, according to sources, pleaded with the Judge Wendel E. Daniels of the New Jersey Superior Court to delay the man’s release, but Daniels, a politically appointed judge who now is tenured, released the offender back into the community, leaving the local law enforcement establishment speechless and without recourse to serve and protect those that could be potential victims of the man.
A law enforcement official who wished to remain anonymous today told Shore News Network that the bail reform law is keeping a repeat petty criminals and drug addicts in jail with bail until trial, but allowing some violent offenders out of the system and out on the streets without bail.
He said the bail reform law uses a computer model and rating system for offenders and decisions to hold perpetrators on bail or to release them are weighed by judges, now also guided by those rating computer model ratings.
If a small-time drug user with a history of possession charges and misdemeanors enters the system, they are graded much higher than a violent or sexual offender who may be in the system for the first time, such as the case in Little Egg Harbor, according to another law enforcement official, who again, because of the political controversy surrounding New Jersey’s bail reform law, wishes to remain anonymous.
It’s not just Ocean County where bail reform is failing the citizens of New Jersey.
A Facebook page, NJ Bail Reform – Why New Jersey is LESS safe at Taxpayer’s Expense is gaining momentum and cataloging the statewide breakdown in bail reform.
In Teaneck, an ex-con from North Carolina was immediately released after being found in a pot smoke filled car carrying a loaded gun.
A man and woman arrested in a string of burglaries with criminal backgrounds were released. The woman reoffended within a week and was back in jail on burglary charges.
In Clifton, a man caught carrying a knife punched a police officer and was promptly put back on the streets, thanks to New Jersey Bail Reform.
A man stopped on the George Washington Bridge with a half-million dollars in cash was also released after being stopped for a moving violation.
A doctor who fired a rifle into a parked vehicle, let out of jail, so long as he promised not to drink anymore alcohol.
The reports went on and on.
The NJ Bail Reform Facebook page has been documenting and cataloging the failures of the bail reform law since it went into action this year. Dozens of examples of failures in the system in just a few weeks were already posted.
We have reached out to Governor Christie’s office to ask the governor about this case since he was a proponent of the bail reform law, but have yet to receive an answer. We will update this story if the request is returned.
We have also contacted the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to discuss New Jersey bail reform and we hope to have a follow up feature on this story within the next day or so.