Friday, April 04, 2008

Todd Portune Is Wrong

Todd Portune has reacted to the so-called “million dollar bond setting” in a $27 theft and called for a “tracking” of Judge’s bonds without all the facts. As a responsible public official, Commissioner Portune should do his homework before spending costly county resources to build new programs to monitor what Judge’s do.

Unfortunately, our local media and the national media have reacted to Judge Bernat’s keeping a $1 million bond previously set by another judge on a small theft case WITHOUT ALL THE INFORMATION. Members of the media do not work for the taxpayers and are free to report as they wish within the bounds of the First Amendment. However, we should expect more from public officials.

The Defendant who was held on that bond, Gary Weaver, had been cutting himself and was suicidal just hours before appearing in front of Judge Bernat. His bond was set by Judge Rosen over 17 years ago and Judge Bernat simply left the bond alone to keep the man in custody for his very own protection. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s story properly reported that Mr. Weaver was charged with “cutting himself.” The photograph of Mr. Weaver in that Enquirer story shows him wearing a yellow jail uniform. To the informed, this yellow uniform is used for prisoners who are experiencing psychological problems or are a danger to themselves. Judge Bernat was right to hold this man! This is what a responsible public official should do.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Portune listened only to the reactionary media stories on this topic and likely did NO investigation before calling on the taxpayers to pay for a new program to “track” what Judge’s do. Would Commissioner Portune have wanted this suicidal person to leave jail so soon after cutting himself? Is that responsible?

The Commissioners should focus on their own responsibilities. Twice in his tenure, Commissioner Portune has failed to convince the taxpayers to support a much needed new jail because his proposals have been bloated with large government programs that had little to do with more jail space. For pure political gain, Commissioner Portune reacted to the ridiculous reporting of guys like Keith Olberman to get his name in the paper. Did he call Judge Bernat to determine what happened in that case? Did he talk to pre-trial services before reacting publicly? Does he know that the yellow jail uniform so prominent in the photograph of the Defendant signals a serious psychological problem with that Defendant? Of course not. Had he made these simple calls, he would’ve had all the facts. We should expect more from our public officials.

Take a look at what the police officer said in his complaint on this case at:

Take a look at the Defendant in his yellow jail uniform and the Enquirer story reporting that the Defendant was "cutting himself" at:

As a former Judge, I've been exactly where Judge Bernat was when he reviewed Judge Rosen's bond. There are over 150 cases in one day in Room A. A Judge's responsibility in that venue is to quickly review cases and set appropriate bonds with very limited information. When a prisoner has on a yellow jail uniform and is charged with hurting himself, the obviously prudent and responsible thing to do is to assure his incarceration until more information can be obtained.

Certainly, a $1 million bond seems excessive until you realize this man was "cutting himself" and the $1 million assured that he would remain in custody until he could be stabilized and processed through the system to assure he was not going to harm himself. Republican endorsed Judge Bernat did the right thing.

Democrat Todd Portune did the wrong thing. He called for a new government program to "track" judge's behavior. One more government program is not the solution to every problem.

Todd Portune is wrong.