In August 2017, Rashard Xavier Eugene Clement got arrested for armed robbery just five months after he was bailed out of jail on charges of distributing crack.
Clement, who had previously served sentences for both distribution and robbery, was released on bail with the added condition of “good behavior.”
Three months later, Clement was arrested again for armed robbery. Once more, he was released on bail.
Scarlett Wilson, the 9th Circuit Solicitor, asked that his bond be revoked — a motion the court denied.
In January 2018, Clement was arrested yet again ... on three more counts of armed robbery. Finally, the court denied bail, seeing as how Clement had racked up six outstanding charges.
Mind you, Clement has yet to be convicted of any of these crimes. Still, does anyone have to ask why Wilson wants tougher penalties for violent repeat offenders?
“They are getting out and getting arrested so many times it’s affecting the docket, creating delays,” Wilson says.
Yeah, it’s crazy. In the past three years, nearly 300 defendants in Wilson’s jurisdiction have been rearrested for violent crimes after making bail on another offense. Wilson’s office routinely asks that bail for these folks be revoked, but the courts refuse around 57 percent of the time.
This is a problem across South Carolina, and Wilson has asked the Legislature to do something about it. She wants additional penalties for anyone convicted of a crime while out on bail for another crime, and more pretrial detention for repeat violent offenders.
Now, some would argue defendants shouldn’t be jailed before they are convicted of a crime. That’s a debatable point, but Wilson is not looking to lock up low-grade offenders or non-violent defendants. In fact, she’s asked the state to provide more diversion programs to keep folks like that out of jail.
But she wants violent repeat offenders off the streets.
State law allows judges to deny bail for crimes considered violent. Problem is, the state laughably does not classify some pretty rough offenses as “violent.” For instance: Third-degree criminal sexual conduct, first- or second-degree assault and battery, second-degree domestic violence and — yes — strong-arm robbery aren’t on the list.
Which is kind of strange, since the statute definition of “strong-arm robbery” actually includes the word “violence.”
Because of such omissions, Inahia Moody was in and out of jail four times in a year with no trial. In January 2018, Moody was arrested for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and second-degree domestic violence.
As a condition of bail, he was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim. But in October, he was arrested for domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature against the same victim. Within weeks, he was nabbed for second-degree domestic violence against another victim.
Wilson’s office asked that Moody’s bail be revoked and, while waiting for an answer, Moody was arrested for unlawfully carrying a gun.
A week later, the court denied Wilson’s bail revocation motion.
Again, Moody hasn’t been convicted of any of these charges — but the solicitor’s office certainly looks like Nostradamus.
Wilson is a tough but fair prosecutor, and she isn’t proposing anything outlandish — the federal system already operates this way. Consider the case of former Berkeley County schools chief financial officer Brantley Thomas.
In 2017, Thomas was charged with embezzling from the school district in state and federal courts. While awaiting trial, Thomas was arrested for embezzling from a local company that charitably gave him a job after his very public firing and arrest. State and federal prosecutors asked that Thomas have his bail revoked.
A federal judge complied immediately. The state refused.
Makes you think that perhaps South Carolina needs better definitions, not only of violences but also for “crime” and “danger to the community.”
There are hundreds of anecdotes here, but this is about statistics. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has compiled the numbers that show this is a real trend, so the General Assembly should act on Wilson’s suggestions fast.
But if you need another anecdote ... Jeffrey Dingle was arrested last fall on charges of trafficking meth, possession of pot with intent to distribute, failure to stop for blue lights and unlawful possession of a handgun.
He got out on bail. And last month, he was re-arrested on first-degree domestic violence and kidnapping charges.
Wilson has asked that Dingle’s bail be revoked, but that motion — like so many others — is stuck in a revolving door.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.