CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden says he believes in second chances but at some point, “it’s time to draw the line,” if a person who has committed a felony continues to reoffend.
He started reviewing cases in which felony offenders violated their probation and noticed numerous offenders were being granted bail pending a hearing to revoke their probation.
“Some on probation, we don’t see back in court but others are committing the same crime while out on bond waiting for that hearing,” Vander Sanden said.
A new policy aims to put an end to that.
It’s for offenders who have committed serious violations of probation, such as committing the same crime or another serious offense or if they have a history of probation revocations, failure to appears or escapes. The prosecutors are now asking probation officers to request “no bond” for offenders they cite for probation violations or recommend for probation revocations.
The policy builds on another set earlier this year when the Linn County Attorney’s Office began asking judges to recognize pre-signed waivers of extradition for fugitives wanted for a parole or probation violation in other states. This policy also requests no bond for these offenders pending the process to extradite.
Both policies are a matter of public safety, Vander Sanden said, adding he isn’t suggesting “no bond” for defendants with less serious violations, and notes in the policy that probation officers should continue to have discretion.
“I drafted the policy last month as a reminder to the judges that they don’t have to grant bond (in these situations),” Vander Sanden said. “There’s a bond schedule set by the Iowa Supreme Court, which is a guideline, but bond is discretionary, not a right. It’s only a right when new charges are filed.
“There is no right for those already given a sentence.”
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An Iowa City man being sentenced Thursday could be a “poster child” for this policy, Vander Sanden pointed out.
Lundell Buchanan, 44, was convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, third offense, a felony, on Sept. 11, 2015, and received probation in Linn County District Court, Vander Sanden said. Three months later, he was arrested for another OWI, third offense, bonded out, and about six months later, he was again arrested for drunken driving, granted bail and then picked up another charge in July 2016 that is now pending in Cedar County.
Buchanan had 10 reports of violations while on probation in those offenses, court documents show. Buchanan was then convicted in February on the May 2016 charges and his probation was revoked, Vander Sanden said. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but he faces 10 more years on Thursday for another drunken driving and drug possession conviction in September. The judge could run the 10 years concurrent or consecutive to the 15 years.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks also pointed out another offender, Damarcus Northern, 19, of Cedar Rapids, who was granted bail pending revocation of probation in February for conspiracy to commit a felony and carrying weapons conviction. He then picked up new charges of threatening to shoot another person and absconding from probation. Less than a month later, he removed his ankle monitor, a previous probation condition, and was shot in Waterloo while with two other men who had firearms.
While pending a residential placement, he had several violations including threatening deputies, Maybanks said. A prosecutor asked the court to revoke his probation but he was given another chance at the center, only to escape in September. His whereabouts is now unknown, Maybanks said.
Vander Sanden said releasing “recidivist and/or dangerous probation violators” back into the community pending their probation revocation hearings can be prevented.
“I’m hopeful that the judges will go along with the policy but ultimately, it’s their discretion,” Vander Sanden said.
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