Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi is shown speaking to the media at the Manchester police station on Jan. 16, 2019. Velardi says his proposed revision to bail law has the support of all county attorneys in the state.

CONCORD — Judges should be able to consider a defendant’s bail history when deciding whether to jail a person arrested on a new crime, a spokesman for county attorneys said Monday.

Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi said his proposed revision to the bail law, which gives judges that discretion, has the support of all county attorneys in the state.

“You can’t have a system where people are walking out of court, violating bail and not facing consequences,” Velardi told the Interbranch Criminal and Juvenile Justice Council, which met in Concord on Monday.

He said county attorneys supported the principle of bail reform, but never endorsed the legislation because of their concerns.

“This is what the proponents wanted — to release as many people as possible. We could see this coming,” Velardi told the Union Leader.

Meanwhile, UNH Law professor Albert “Buzz” Scherr said a publicity campaign by Manchester police against bail reform has inadvertently pointed out a flaw in the system — bail commissioners. He said Manchester bail commissioners could order a defendant held overnight if the person is dangerous.

Then a judge could decide bail the next day. But in several examples cited by Manchester police, that apparently wasn’t done, Scherr said in an interview with the Union Leader. He said a police officer has to make the argument to a bail commissioner if a person under arrest is dangerous.

“It’s not the law (that’s at fault),” he said, “it’s the way it’s being applied. It’s the bail commissioners they need to change.”

Police Chief Carlo Capano agreed that bail commissioners and courts are part of the problem, but the overall issue is bail reform, he said. Meanwhile, police in rural areas can’t get bail commissioners to visit stations and decide bail because they are not receiving their $40 payment for each bail hearing, said Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury.

Manchester police have been especially vocal about bail reform.

Over the last month, they have been highlighting the arrests of people who were released on bail, sometimes after committing violent crimes. Or they highlight the arrest of people who had been released after their arrest on earlier crimes.

“People are frightened out there,” said state Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, who brought up the case of a man released in Manchester after allegedly pointing a handgun at another driver during a road rage incident.

Pantelakos sits on the Interbranch Council, which is the third board that will be weighing possible revisions to bail reforms that were passed last year and revised earlier this year.

The bail reform law establishes a commission of legislators, court officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police and corrections officials, which will meet later this month to see if the law is working as intended.

And Gov. Chris Sununu said last week he will task a group of state lawmakers to possibly overhaul the 2-year-old law. Velardi’s proposal prompted a brief discussion at the Council.

Police Chief Shagoury, another critic of bail reform, said the proposal won’t solve the problem because it will require a prosecutor to file paperwork with a judge to trigger a bail hearing. David D. King, the administrative judge of Circuit Courts, said the defendant would be jailed if re-arrested for a violent crime. “But they’re not getting jailed,” Shagoury said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Tuesday, January 21, 2020