Our View: A call-to-action by any other name
You don’t usually see law enforcement set its sights on a local judge.
They’re all part of the same justice system. Arguably, it makes no sense to poke the bear, especially one in a robe, when everyone’s on the same team.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger’s decision to release a man on his own recognizance changed those rules. Found with what could be described as a galaxy of suspected drugs, 29-year-old Jeremy Sulley faced a $250,000 bond when he was arrested earlier this month. Then Heidelberger released him, saying no bail was needed.
So Sulley was released and Grass Valley police took to Facebook to voice their opinion.
“The initial bail amount set at the time of booking = 250,000,” their post stated. “Release of an armed drug dealer with no bail – PRICELESS.”
Grass Valley police didn’t name Heidelberger in their post, but the message is the same: a local judge cut loose a man police say had enough drugs to intoxicate 15% of the town they serve.
And the justice machine grows a bit more clunky.
We have a complex relationship with our court system in California. You see people regularly complain online about low bail and repeat offenders, yet we — the voters — often approve propositions reducing penalties for people convicted of crimes.
There’s a revolving door at our jail for a handful of folks. One reason is the law doesn’t allow their incarceration for an extended period of time. Nor should it. Many of these people are homeless, have drug and alcohol issues or a mental condition. Others got a raw deal from life, find themselves committing crimes and happen to be from this county. Still others commit misdemeanors, serve a brief time and are freed.
But Jeremy Sulley’s case doesn’t fall into those categories. Police say they found suspected drugs, including heroin, a loaded gun and about $1,000 in cash on him. An officer saw Sulley unconscious behind the wheel of a running, parked car with a bong in his lap.
You don’t need a law degree to know a person found in this situation shouldn’t be released with only a signature promising they’ll go to court. Police have spent their resources on apprehending him once. They shouldn’t have to perform a repeat if he fails to appear before the judge.
This argument, at least in Sulley’s case, could be for naught. He could very well appear in court each time it’s required. Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard hoped for as much in his comments to The Union.
Police said their Facebook post wasn’t a call-to-action for the community. Instead it was an update for the residents of the city they serve — the third of three posts letting folks know about a serious case.
But like any piece of writing, once that message is released it’s up to the individual reader to discern meaning from it.
“This was much more than just a ‘personal use’ amount and not simply a situation of a person with a drug problem,” the Facebook post states. Police also said: “Our desire is to protect the community from armed drug dealers! But, unfortunately, this guy is back out on the street within short order.”
You could take this as nothing more than an informative post for those concerned about their community. Alternatively, you could see it as a police department angered over a local judge’s decision, and ensuring that its Facebook followers know — in stark terms — an accused drug dealer is free.
Despite the police’s statement, you also could see this as a call-to-action to make change at the polls, whether it’s refusing a ballot issue that would reduce criminal penalties or electing new leaders to local and state office.
You’ll have to be the judge of that.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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