Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Judge sets bail to $1 million for Lancaster protesters; Lt. Gov. Fetterman calls it 'unconstitutional'

A Lancaster County judge set bail at $1 million for some of the protesters arrested for arson and riot-related charges early Monday morning following the police shooting of 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz.

The protesters are each charged with felony arson, riot and vandalism charges, among other protest-related charges. At least six of the eight people arrested Monday morning had bail set at $1 million by Magisterial District Judge Bruce Roth on Monday night, according to court documents. One of the protesters was not eligible for bail, and another person’s docket had not yet been updated.

An additional five people - four adults and one juvenile - were arrested on Monday after further investigation, police announced Tuesday. They are still waiting for a judge to set their bail.

The $1 million bail quickly came under fire from Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and a local advocacy group, with Fetterman calling it “blatantly unconstitutional” and an infringement on the protesters’ Eighth Amendment right against excessive bail.

Fetterman noted that the officer charged with killing George Floyd was held on $1 million bail.

He was alerted to the issue after Lancaster Stands Up called on Fetterman and other elected officials to intervene, sharing the picture and story of one of the arrested -- Taylor Enterline, 20, a West Chester University student who has been leading protests and advocacy in Manheim for the last several months.

“It’s self-evidently unconstitutional,” Fetterman said. “Whatever the merit of the underlying charges, what is absolutely indefensible is a million dollar bail for those charges.”

Roth should reconsider this bail amount, Fetterman said.

Roth said he could not comment on these cases, but that he considered Lancaster city police’s input when setting bail. Affidavits for the protesters’ arrests were not immediately made available.

City police did not request the bail amount, said Lt. Bill Hickey, the public information officer for the bureau. The District Attorney's office did not provide any input regarding bail, spokesperson Brett Hambright said in an email.

The protesters are charged with several felony offenses, which are considered in the judge's equation when deciding bail, as well as the input of police.

"The crimes that these defendants are facing include serious felony offenses," Hickey said in an email. "This is not a new or unheard of practice and falls within the rules of criminal procedure."

Four of the people arrested Monday morning were from outside Lancaster County. Two of the people are experiencing homelessness, according to city police. Matthew Modderman, one of the people arrested, is employed by LNP | LancasterOnline as a client services representatives in the Client Solutions department.

The suspects allegedly piled wood, metal street signs and trash bags to light on fire at the intersection of Chestnut and Prince streets, according to city police.

Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement called the bail orders “unacceptable,” and said the state ACLU wants answers from Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams and Roth. Adams’ office said it did not add any input about bail for these cases.

“The one million dollar cash bail orders for several young Black Lives Matter protesters last night is an egregious and unacceptable abuse of the bail system,” Shuford said. “Cash bail should never be used to deter demonstrators and chill speech.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is advising local counsel to file emergency motions in response to these bail orders, its director of communications Andy Hoover said in an email.

Whether the charges are merited, Fetterman said he believes this high bail is going to “further inflame and escalate what needs to be a peaceful protest and a resolution of the tragedy.”

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