Ever since California's court system decided in early April to lower bail to zero dollars for most non-violent offenses — in order to thin out the state's jail population amid the pandemic — sheriff's departments around the Bay have been loudly complaining about the criminal suspects they've had to re-arrest, sometimes multiple times, after their quick releases. This week, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office released four side-by-side booking photos of one suspect they've had to arrest four times since late March on suspicion of a variety of charges, promoting the hashtag #ZeroBailFail.
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern clearly has wanted to call attention to the public safety issues that come with one-size-fits-all policies like the current suspension of bail for most cases. "We oppose zero bail and the other releases. Including a serial rapist that was let out," Ahern's department wrote in a recent Facebook post.
The sheriff's department is now protesting the fourth consecutive release by a judge of Berkeley resident Aubrey Crowder, this time after Crowder allegedly assaulted a sheriff's deputy.
"It's likely we see him again," they write in a tweet, saying that the judge refused their bail hold request.
Aubrey Crowder is another #ZeroBailFail. Arrested 4x since 3/27 for Robbery, assaults on officers, trespass, drugs and court order violations. He is released again after trying to assault our deputies. A judge failed to sign our bail hold request. It’s likely we see him again. pic.twitter.com/lKaruYP8g7— Alameda County Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) May 27, 2020
The 19-year-old Crowder's recent cases, which involve drug charges, battery, trespassing, court order violations, and the assault on an officer, follow on a recorded history of arrests. On January 31, according to public records, BART police arrested Crowder on suspicion of robbery in downtown Oakland. He was previously arrested for robbery by BART police in July of last year, and his record dates back to February 2019, with arrests for vandalism, prowling, and resisting arrest.
And Crowder is one of multiple repeat suspects that local law enforcement have been trying to call attention to during the pandemic, despite crime generally being down around the Bay Area.
In April we heard about 34-year-old Kristopher Sylvester of Fremont, who was arrested twice by different police jurisdictions within a matter of days for multiple commercial burglaries, stealing a Ford Mustang from Hertz, leading police on a chase, and possessing a loaded firearm. And there was the case of Rocky Music, 32, who was re-arrested 30 minutes after his release from Santa Rita Jail last month for a carjacking allegedly committed during his walk from the jail to the Dublin BART station.
Alameda County Sgt. Ray Kelly says these were just two examples of 5o re-arrests that have occurred in the county in the last two months.
Publicizing these cases has resulted in attention from federal prosecutors, and as the Mercury News reports, both Sylvester and Music now face federal charges that come with different guidelines for pre-trial jail stays.
Sylvester now faces a federal illegal gun possession charge, for which he could face up to 10 years behind bars, and Music has been charged with federal carjacking, for which he faces up to 15 years. Both men will face detention hearings that will determine if they stay in jail before their trials, with Sylvester's scheduled for Thursday, May 28.
Defense attorneys and other advocates argue that the only way to prevent widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons is to limit the jail population and create more mandatory distancing inside of them. And local attorney Jeffrey Bornstein, who is representing some Santa Rita inmates in a lawsuit about the treatment of the mentally ill in the jail, tells the Mercury News that Sheriff Ahern's attitude toward the zero-bail initiative, and the publicizing of these re-arrests, is "disheartening and counterproductive."
Santa Rita Jail has had over 50 inmates test positive for COVID-19, along with three staff members, most of whom have since recovered. As Berkeleyside reported two weeks ago, inmates in the jail believed the number was higher than was publicized. Now all inmates are being tested for the virus within 48 hours of their arrival at the jail.
As Kelly tells the Mercury News, "Time will tell but I think there are unrealized consequences to the zero-bail protocol. What we are seeing now in terms of crime trends is concerning. You can steal a car every day and just do the revolving door at the jail. We’re working on ways to mitigate that now, but it has been very frustrating."
Photo of Santa Rita Jail via the Alameda County Sheriff's Office on Facebook