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Father of five arrested for leaving kids unattended while at work

Wake County Justice Center

Father of five arrested for leaving kids unattended while at work

On August 15, Victor Alonzo King of Raleigh, North Carolina was arrested and accused of child abuse. His offense? Allegedly leaving his five children under the age of eight unattended while he went to work. King’s employer says he left the children with a neighbor, who then left them alone, according to ABC 13. In court on Wednesday, King begged the judge to let him out so he could keep his job.

“Two weeks ago my wife was diagnosed with stage four cancer,” King said. “And I’m practically like her only way to pay for all of her medical bills. So I was wondering if I could get out early and I can still work so I won’t lose my job so I can still pay for her medical expenses.”

Instead, the judge set his bond at $25,000, after learning of a 2011 charge against King for child cruelty. Word of his case quickly spread, in part thanks to an online fundraising page set up by a local teacher that raised $1,300 in the first few hours. By Friday, King had been bailed out by a complete stranger, and returned to work.

“When I saw that he was just a working dad trying to take care of his family and had trouble with his kids it really broke my heart,” the teacher, Rikki Hilliard, told Eyewitness News.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman did not respond to a request for comment on King’s incarceration and the charges against him.

King is not the first parent to face criminal charges while trying to balance work and childcare. Debra Harrell, a South Carolina mom, was arrested and charged with child neglect in 2014 for letting her nine-year-old play at a park without her supervision while she worked her job at McDonald’s. Harrell was held in jail for 17 days.

There is a terrible irony in jailing a parent who struggles to find childcare. If Harrell and King struggled to find supervision for their kids while at work, who’s going to do it while they’re in jail? Detaining a parent ultimately harms the children the court alleges to protect. In both of these cases, poverty and a shortage of childcare options play a key role. But the response of law enforcement and prosecutors who pursue charges against these parents, who are trying to earn money to support the very children they’re allegedly neglecting, appear to disregard those circumstances entirely.

There are other incidents involving the criminalization of overwhelmingly harmless parenting choices. In Connecticut, a mother was charged after briefly leaving her daughter in the car while she went into a store. The child had asked to stay behind while her mom went in, and according to police, was responsive and not in any distress when they arrived on the scene. In Ohio, Jeffrey Williamson was arrested in front of his family in 2014 for child endangerment after his son skipped out on church and was found playing in the neighborhood unsupervised, four blocks from his home. And then there’s Kelly Williams-Bolar, who was arrested and jailed after lying about her address so she could send her kids to a better school.

While real instances of child neglect and endangerment should be taken seriously, unnecessarily involving the criminal justice system can create devastating results for families. For parents like King and Harrell, who are the only breadwinners in the household, the loss of a job while incarcerated has a harmful ripple effect.

As The New York Times recently reported, low-income parents, particularly mothers of color, disproportionately face the removal of their children from their homes. The aggressive pursuit of child endangerment cases tears families apart, and creates lasting consequences for children who are placed in foster care.

King’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

Arizona prosecutor violated federal law by not personally reviewing wiretap warrants

Arizona prosecutor violated federal law by not personally reviewing wiretap warrants

A federal appellate court has ruled that the office of Maricopa County District Attorney Bill Montgomery violated the law with their wiretapping practices.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that Montgomery didn’t personally review and sign off on surveillance warrants, which is required by federal law. Montgomery instead relied on a less restrictive state statute that allowed him to delegate responsibility to someone else in his office.

Alan Simpson, a defense lawyer not involved in this case, told theArizona Republic that the ruling will likely lead to the suppression of wiretap evidence in lots of ongoing criminal cases.

“This is really big,” Simpson said. “It’s a tsunami that’s going to wash so many of these cases right out … There’s no legal way around it. The evidence is suppressible.”

The decision came down in a civil lawsuit filed by Manuella Villa, claimed that her conversations were illegally recorded by law enforcement during a 2012 drug investigation at the direction of Montgomery’s office.

Villa was not the focus of the investigation and was never charged with any crime.

While the court held that Montgomery’s handling of the warrants violated the law, it also found that Villa could not recover monetary damages because the wiretap application was carried out in “good faith.” Moreover, the court held that Villa’s claims only applied to her situation and denied her attempt to bring a class action suit on behalf of others, like her, whose communications had been intercepted by similarly obtained wiretap warrants.

Maricopa County District Attorney Bill Montgomery

Villa’s lawyer, Cameron Morgan, told the Associated Press that the ruling was important even though he disagreed with the court saying the wiretap application was carried out in good faith.

“We’ve seen a lot of abuses of wiretap investigative techniques,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, this will end some of the major abuses. And, hopefully, it’ll make the (Arizona) judiciary sit up and take notice.”

Montgomery has indicated he will appeal the ruling, while also claiming he reads every affidavit provided by law enforcement in support of a wiretap.

But Judge William Fletcher, writing for the three-judge appellate panel, said there was nothing in the record to indicate Montgomery was familiar with Villa’s case, and said it was clear that Montgomery had authorized deputy prosecutors to apply for wiretaps.

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American Bar Association endorses multiple criminal justice reform proposals

American Bar Association endorses multiple criminal justice reform proposals

The policy making body of the American Bar Association has approved multiple resolutions calling for a major reform of bail, an end to locking juveniles up in solitary confinement, and an end to mandatory minimum sentences.

The resolutions put the ABA, a voluntary professional association with over 400,000 members, in line with what many criminal justice reform groups have been actively pushing for years.

The resolution calling for bail reform urges local governments to adopt policies that allow people charged with crimes to get out of jail on personal recognizance or unsecured bonds. It also encourages local governments to only seek cash or secured bonds when they are “necessary to assure the defendant’s appearance and no other conditions will suffice for that purpose.” The resolution further suggests “that pretrial detention should never occur due solely to an inability to pay.”

Bail reform has been gaining steady traction around the country. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) recently sponsored legislation to reform bail nationally and states like Kentucky and New Jersey and the District of Columbia have moved to reform their respective practices. District Attorneys in places like Chicago and Houston have also come out in support of reform, arguing that it’s necessary to reduce the prison population and avoid disrupting the lives of people who could lose their jobs and income if they remain locked up for months or years on unresolved charges.

The ABA resolution and accompanying report also recommends doing away with juvenile solitary confinement. It suggests that temporary confinement of up to four hours could be used when a juvenile’s behavior could be harmful to himself or others. But the confinement should conclude when the immediate threat is over.

The ABA’s resolution around juvenile solitary confinement echoes ongoing efforts to end the practice. For example, former President Barack Obama adopted the Department of Justice’s recommendation to end solitary confinement in federal prison facilities. Yet the practice persists at the state and local levels.

The case of Kalief Browder generated national attention and outrage after it was learned that Browder had been locked up at Rikers Island in New York for three years — two of which were in solitary confinement — after he was wrongfully arrested for stealing a backpack.

Browder suffered mightily due to his isolation and treatment while in jail and attempted to kill himself four times. He later committed suicide after the charges were finally dismissed and he was released.

How widespread juvenile solitary confinement is at the state and local level is largely unknown due to the absence of available information.

According to Solitary Watch: “It is impossible to know how many young people under the age of 18 are suffering in solitary confinement as Kalief did, since neither state nor federal governments have reliable data on the total number of youth placed solitary confinement each year. The practice is known to be widespread, but it occurs differently in different types of settings and is referred to by a range of innocuous euphemisms, making it difficult to quantify or track.”

The ABA resolution also calls for an end to the use of mandatory minimum sentences. It asks the U.S. Congress and state legislatures to repeal existing mandatory minimum sentences and oppose the creation of any new such legislation.

The report stressed that the United States locks up more people than any other country on earth, and in the 25 years since the adoption of mandatory minimums for drug offenses the average annual sentence has tripled in time served.

Bar officials also pointed out that studies have repeatedly shown that mandatory minimum sentencing more harshly impacts people of color, with black defendants more likely to be charged and sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence.

“Sentencing by mandatory minimums is the antithesis of rational sentencing policy,” the report said. “Because mandatory minimum sentences are not in line with the purposes of sentencing and, rather, lead to indeterminate sentencing, racial disparity, and mass incarceration, we urge the adoption of this resolution.”

Thanks to Jake Sussman.

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