MADISON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wants to know if the U.S. Department of Justice is doing it’s job: collecting pre-trial information on violent offenders like Darrell Brooks, Jr. — the career criminal Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s office set free on $1,000 bail days before he is suspected of killing and injuring more than 60 Waukesha Christmas parade-goers.
“The attack on the Waukesha Christmas Parade by a repeat violent offender brought to the nation’s attention the issue of pre-trial release of criminal violent offenders and subsequent violent crimes committed by such individuals,” the senator wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Brooks is charged with six counts of intentional homicide after he drove his SUV into the parade last month. Just days before, Brooks was released from jail on $1,000 bail after he allegedly used the same vehicle to run over the mother of his child. Brooks has a long rap sheet, including convictions on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault, and bail-jumping.
“This is not a singular issue; there are numerous reports from across the country of violent crimes committed by individuals out on pre-trial release after being charged for a felony violent offense,” Johnson wrote. “It is unclear if DOJ currently collects information on crimes committed by individuals on pre-trial release.”
They should be, the Oshkosh Republican noted. Congress provides funding for DOJ to collect and analyze information on crime, including on pre-trial release. Johnson urged DOJ to “publish such information immediately.”
It appears the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics last issued a report on pre-trial release in 2007. Last year, the bureau announced the creation of the National Pretrial Reporting Program (NPRP) and awarded a grant to the Research Triangle Institute to collect, among other things, information on individuals charged with violent offenses on pre-trial release. The records include the information counties use for pre-trial release decisions, trends of pre-trial release methods, and patterns of missed court appearances and rearrests while on pre-trial release.
“However, to date, neither the NPRP nor BJS has published any such information since this grant award,” Johnson wrote.
Chisholm, a Democrat who has long boasted about his “progressive justice” policies, admitted the bail his office recommended for Brooks was “inappropriately low” and “not consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail.” He blamed the mistake on “human error,” claiming the “young” prosecutor who made the recommendation did not have access to key information about Brooks’ criminal record. A quick look at Wisconsin’s online court records database would have given her a pretty good indication, however.
Waukesha-area Republican lawmakers have called on Evers to remove Chisholm from office. Evers, a Democrat who shares Chisholm’s philosophies on progressive justice, has said he can do nothing until a Milwaukee County citizen files a verified complaint. Meanwhile, records show other violent offenders in Milwaukee County who have since gone on to be charged with murder after being out on low bail.
“Recent reports demonstrate similar questionable pre-trial releases of violent offenders into communities. Failure to appear for mandatory court appearances and felony bail jumping increased in recent years in multiple jurisdictions across the country,” Johnson wrote.
“The American public has the right to know how many of these crimes were committed by individuals who were out on the streets after posting meager bail, or none at all,” Johnson wrote, giving Garland two weeks to turn over the information he’s seeking.