There has been a controversy over the refusal of some in the media to use the word “rioters,” but one judge clearly does not see anything nuanced in the actions of those arrested rioting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania last week. Magisterial District Judge Bruce A. Roth set bail for nine of the defendants at $1 million each. I personally view that bail as excessive under controlling case law.
Ricardo Munoz, 27, had a history of violence and mental illness, including past knife attacks. He was shot when he charged officers with a knife. Rioting later broke out in Lancaster.
Twelve adults were arrested – Jamal Shariff Newman, 24; Barry Jones, 30; Frank Gaston, 43; Yoshua Dwayne Montague, 23; Matthew Modderman, 31; Talia Gessner, 18; Kathryn Patterson, 20; Taylor Enterline, 20; T-Jay Fry, 28; Dylan Davis, 28; Lee Alexander Wise, 29; Jessica Marie Lopez, 32 – for crimes ranging from arson to rioting to institutional vandalism to criminal conspiracy. Montague was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
Nine were hit with the $1 million bail.
The Eighth Amendment states “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The Court ruled in Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1 (1951), the Court ruled that bail cannot be set higher than an amount that is reasonably likely to ensure the defendant’s appearance at trial. Chief Justice Vinson stated:
“It is not denied that bail for each petitioner has been fixed in a sum much higher than that usually imposed for offenses with like penalties and yet there has been no factual showing to justify such action in this case…Such conduct would inject into our own system of government the very principles of totalitarianism which Congress was seeking to guard against in passing the statute under which petitioners have been indicted.”
I doubt that this bail would be found reasonable for all nine defendants, if any, on appeal. The court was clearly sending a message but bail in not an appropriate vehicle for such messages.