EDITORIAL: The revolving door of ‘justice reform’
It would be funny if it weren’t so frightening. One of the four people arrested when police found a cache of arms, drugs and money in downtown Denver before this month’s All-Star Game pleaded with the judge to go easy on his bail. 42-year-old Richard Platt reasoned that he presented a low risk of flight if released because, as he told Denver County Magistrate Kathleen Boland, “… I’ve made every court date on my last cases. I made every one.”
Platt has a criminal record going back to 1998. Court filings indicate some of his past felony convictions include possession of a weapon by a previous offender, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, menacing with a weapon, attempted robbery and theft.
But, hey, he never missed a hearing. As if he were bragging about his credit rating. The judge didn’t go for it and set bail at $50,000.
Incredibly, he was supposed to be in jail at the time he and the three others were busted at a hotel near Coors Field with their guns and drugs. As reported by The Gazette earlier this month, Platt had an open warrant with an extradition order out of Douglas County related to an arrest for possession of a weapon by a previous offender. An April police report on an encounter with Platt in Boulder, where he lived at the time, shows the county jail there refused to accept him into custody. That was likely because of COVID policies to reduce the jail population.
And yet, despite Platt’s lengthy record and previous evasion of arrest, police evidently had credible fears the suspects would be released from custody.
That’s right; as reported by The Gazette this week, Denver Police actually put the suspects on a strategic hold and then asked the U.S. attorney to hold the suspects on federal charges to prevent their release. A senior city government official told The Gazette on condition of anonymity that police had feared the suspects would be granted pretrial release on personal recognizance bonds.
In response to an inquiry from The Gazette, a spokesperson for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann maintained via email that prosecutors in fact objected to defense attorneys’ request for the suspects’ release on such bonds.
Whether the suspects were going to play havoc with the All-Star Game, as initially suspected, or as now believed, were swapping guns for illegal drugs, the thought that any weak links in the local justice system might have allowed their release is chilling.
Consider the facts of the case. Acting on a tip from the hotel’s housekeeping staff, police arrested Platt, Gabriel Rodriguez, 48, Ricardo Rodriguez, 44, and Kanoelehua Serikawa, 43 on July 9. Platt and another of the suspects had outstanding warrants. Three of them were barred from possessing weapons because of felony convictions, according to arrest affidavits. Ricardo Rodriguez has previous felony convictions in Washington, Idaho and Colorado, according to the affidavits filed in their federal cases, including for possession of a controlled substance, forgery and criminal impersonation.
Court papers showed ample evidence of drugs, with heroin, methamphetamine and synthetic ecstasy found after police obtained a search warrant. Police say they also found more than a dozen weapons and thousands of dollars in cash.
Kudos to those who ensured these suspects remain in custody pending further proceedings. Meanwhile, the fact that police were concerned the suspects might be released says a lot about the ill-conceived, soft-on-crime “justice reform” movement — and the sway it holds in some quarters of Colorado’s current political establishment.
That all the more why it was encouraging to see Denver Mayor Michael Hancock take on justice reform’s revolving door in his annual State of the City address earlier this week. Citing Colorado’s soaring crime rate, he said, “…that spike is being compounded by the release of violent criminals too quickly from custody, putting them right back in the community to reoffend … This must be corrected. There must be a balance between reform that keeps low-level non-violent folks from going to jail in the first place, and our residents’ safety.”
He told a Gazette reporter after his speech that state law related to release on personal recognizance bonds needs changing. He also said the prematurely releasing those charged with violent crimes predates even efforts to thin jail populations amid COVID.
“Whether COVID or not, we don’t want violent criminals on our streets; I don’t care what’s going on in society. We simply need to keep people safe and there’s no excuse for releasing a violent criminal when we know they have a propensity to commit violent crimes.”
The Denver Gazette
July 29, 2021
Reprinted from EDITORIAL: The revolving door of ‘justice reform’ | Editorials | denvergazette.com