In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one judge recently bucked the trend of letting rioters out of jail and slapped several with a bail of $1 million, after police requested a high bail amount based on the crimes of the accused. The Lt. Governor labeled it “unconstitutional,” but it’s possible that serious charges and high bails would likely curtail many of the riots occurring across the country.
Riots in Pennsylvania broke out after the shooting death of Ricardo Munoz, 27, who authorities say threatened and chased an officer with a knife. Allegedly struggling with a mental health episode, Munoz was schizophrenic and bipolar, and had previously been arrested and was awaiting trial for stabbing four people, including a minor.
In response to his death, hundreds of people took to the streets in protest, but it descended into a riot. At one point, police used tear gas in order to disperse the crowd and maintain order. Thirteen were arrested, including seven who were given a $1 million bond and charged with arson, riot, vandalism and other related misdemeanors. Reports indicate that the rioters threw bricks at the police station and post office, and threw glass bottles, gallon jugs filled with liquid, parts of plastic road barriers and other items at police officers.
The high bail has been deemed by many as excessive and unconstitutional, with a hearing scheduled for September 17 to reevaluate the bail terms.
“In this particular case, it’s blatantly unconstitutional given the nature of the charges. And I’m pointing that out,” Lt. Governor John Fetterman said.
Kathryn Patterson, one of those arrested, is a 20-year-old undergraduate student at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, a pricy private school. According to her father, Chip Patterson, she was acting as a “medic” during the protests and he deemed her $1 million bail “obscene.”
“Everything that I know so far, which is not a lot, indicates that Kat is not guilty of those charges. But then again, we’ll have to wait and see,” Chip said.
The Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights prevents “excessive bail,” so it’s understandable that the bail terms set by the judge would be revisited.
However, this Pennsylvania judge may just have the right idea.
The protests and rioting in response to Munoz’s death began on Sunday and ended in the early hours of Monday morning. It appears as though after the arrests and the bail amounts were posted, there hasn’t been any further disruptive activity in the city.
That’s in stark contrast to a city like Portland, Oregon, where rioting has been going on every night for months. In the city, it’s been standard procedure for authorities to release those that have been arrested quickly, with no bail set. These individuals then show up again, likely night after night, and cause havoc in the city.
Many Americans across the country have watched in horror as seemingly city after city goes up in flames. Authorities often have their hands tied, as certain mayors and governors refuse to support police efforts to engage and disperse the rioters.
That’s not the case in Lancaster.
It appears that several nights in jail and a serious bail may have tempered some of the enthusiasm to engage in more destructive behaviors and helped maintained order in this Pennsylvanian city. On Monday night, there was only a small crowd outside the police station and no violent incidents.
The First Amendment’s right to free speech and assembly is enshrined in the Constitution, but that doesn’t give people a license to do what they want in the process of exercising that right. Treating rioting and destruction seriously may help cities get back to some semblance of normality.
Photo from Dean Dietrick Jr / Shutterstock.com
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