Protection of witness not a valid reason to revoke defendant’s bail, judge rules

Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Geraldine Pickett. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The District Attorney’s office is not permitted to revoke a defendant’s bail on the sole grounds that it is protecting a trial witness, a Brooklyn Criminal Court judge ruled this month.

Joshua Sanchez was arrested in July and was released on bail pending trial. An order of protection was issued against Sanchez as a condition of his bail, preventing him contacting a trial witness. The witness told a social worker that Sanchez had been calling and harassing her in violation of her protection order.

Believing that Sanchez should be sent to jail for the protection of the witness, the Kings County D.A.’s Office filed a motion in Brooklyn’s criminal court to have Sanchez’s bail revoked.

The court can revoke bail for “good cause,” such as failing to adhere to bail conditions, committing a new crime while out on bail, flight and violation of a protection order. Here, the D.A.’s Office contended that Sanchez violated the order of protection when he made calls to the witness.

Basing argument that a protective order was violated solely on phone calls is insufficient evidence, noted Brooklyn criminal court Judge Geraldine Pickett. There is no “credible evidence that the order of protection has been violated based on telephone calls to the complainant,” she stated in her decision to maintain Sanchez’s bail.  The witness’ statement that it was Sanchez’s voice on the phone is “not credible in absence of further qualifying information,” such as voice comparison, Pickett noted.

Pickett deemed a more substantial cause to revoke bail would be if the defendant posed a flight risk, in addition to making the suspected phone calls to the witness. The record showed that Sanchez has “not has not been a flight risk…[and] he has appeared on the scheduled dates.”

As Sanchez was not a flight risk and the phone calls could not be authenticated, Pickett found that the prosecutors “failed to show ‘good cause’ to revoke defendant's bail” and ordered that Sanchez’s original bail terms be continued.

October 16, 2013 - 2:30pm



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