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In rare interview, sitting judge discusses 'failure' of suspects getting multiple bonds in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE - In a rare interview, Chief Judge Don Johnson is addressing a concern the public has with a revolving door for alleged criminals who manage to get multiple bonds while they are awaiting trial on their pending cases.
It comes after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed Frank Beauchamp's case. Beauchamp is accused of being a prolific drug dealer on the streets of Baton Rouge. He was arrested last month while he was already out on two other bonds.
Judge Johnson called it a failure when the same suspect can get multiple bonds. He says judges are only as good as the information that is provided to them at the time a bail is set.
"It's a requirement that we've always required that they be arrest-free," Johnson said. "We have other conditions not to go certain places that are conducive to crime. When we say don't get arrested, that is a cause to revoke your bail. It doesn't mean your bail will be revoked, but it is a measure that I assess whether or not I should."
When a defendant is arrested, judges rely on information from law enforcement, the bail bond project, the district attorney's office and their own staff to determine if someone is a threat to society.
"Yes, I think it's a failure," Johnson said. "It's a failure of looking at and understanding the phenomenon there is no absolute guarantee...keep the person locked up until their case is over. Is it at the second, third or fourth arrest that I say you are not bailable? You are too risky to be out in public until this case is resolved."
Two years ago, the WBRZ Investigative Unit showed you nine separate photographs for three separate suspects. All were out on multiple bonds.
"We are not sitting here isolated and not impacted by decisions," Johnson said. "We realize we want to do a better job."
To fix the problem, Judge Johnson said there's a push to beef up the pretrial services which would add additional commissioners that would help assist with setting bonds. That would need approval by lawmakers.
"We've got a commitment from a local legislator, and this is where we are headed," Johnson said. "The idea is to establish a comprehensive pretrial services department. If you do that, then now we can look at the arrests and the individual and screen the individual for the likelihood to commit another crime based on factors which will inform the court."
In addition to trying to add commissioners, there's also talk about reforming the ankle monitoring program. Those discussions are in the early stages.
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