Portune's bond-tracking idea gets backlash
Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune’s suggestion to keep track of the bonds judges set is being met with backlash.
Portune made the suggestion in response to Judge Richard Bernat re-instating a $1 million bond in an 18-year-old , $21 theft case at a time when the county has too few jail beds.
First Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann objected to it.
Then, Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou posted an item Friday on his blog, criticizing Portune's idea. He says Portune overreacted and didn't have all the information (Triantafilou, an attorney and former Municipal Court Judge, says Bernat refused to lower the bond because the defendant was at risk of harming himself and needed to be monitored for his own safety).
UPDATE: Bernat's bailiff's take on the reason behind the bond:
Daniel Deters, who was Bernat’s bailiff that day, said the defendant, Gary Weaver was obviously mentally unstable, and likely suicidal. He said mental health officials informed the judge of Weaver’s precarious mental state.
Though Deters couldn’t speak for the judge (and the judge did not state his reasoning in court), “The judge has to weigh the safety to the community, the guys’ appearance and his mental wellbeing during the setting of the bond,” Deters said. “In my opinion, it was for the guys’ own good.”
Weaver was jailed in a special cell for those on suicide watch, Deters said.
UPDATE: Portune's reaction to Triantafilou's blog:
"I think he doth protest too much," said Portune. "The whole discussion is that there are too many people in jail who don’t need to be in jail. The general public who have refused to support an new money to address the jail overcrowding issues said 'you need to solve the systemic problems first.' Those problems involve whether reasonable bails are being posted or not.
The ony way to get at that is to publish the data. Why is he protesting so much about this?"
"If you’re setting excessive bonds, it violates the constitution. Specific to our issues locally, it crowds the county jail," Portune said. "That’s the issue we’ve been charged to address. I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes."
Meanwhile, Portune has accepted an invitation by Municipal Court Judge Brad Greenberg to sit with him on the bench Tuesday morning as he arraigns (and sets bond for) a room full of defendants.
"He said 'I think it would be of help to you to get a birds-eye view of what we see as judges.' I’ve agreed. I’m looking forward to it," Portune said. "I think it will be a healthy exercise to be there. I’m grateful Judge Greenberg is willing to reach out on this."
Portune said hopes to learn what all goes into the process so he can better understand the system. That way it will be easier to figure out what kind of systematic reforms could be put in place to curb the jail population, he said.