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Concerns as cash bail ban starts Monday in Illinois
By Kevin S. HeldAndy Banker,
RED BUD, Ill. – There are big concerns in a small town in Randolph County, Illinois, about a man accused of setting someone on fire and killing them.
People in Red Bud, Illinois, about 35 miles southeast of St. Louis, fear Shawn Porter may be freed from jail on Monday while awaiting trial.
Monday is the day Illinois becomes the first state in America to ban cash bail.
Porter, 48, is charged with a single count of first-degree murder.
Court documents say he set his neighbor, Donald Steibel, 76, on fire at Steibel’s home in June. A standoff ensued at Porter’s home, a half block away, according to authorities. Porter allegedly threatened police and threatened to set his home on fire before surrendering.
Multiple Red Bud residents told FOX 2 they fear Porter’s potential release. They also asked not to be identified because of that fear.
“We don’t want him out either, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep him from getting out,” Randolph County State’s Attorney James Kelley said.
Kelley, who is prosecuting the case, wouldn’t go into specific details about pending cases, but said all 15 cash bail suspects now in the Randolph County Jail would be eligible for detention hearings on Monday.
They are essentially grandfathered in, he said, with the option of electing to continue under their cash bail or seeking their freedom under Illinois’ new pretrial fairness law, known as the SAFE T Act.
The state legislature passed the act banning cash bail last year. State’s attorneys, including Kelley, filed suit to stop it. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the law in July and set Monday, Sept. 18, as the effective date.
Justice system reformers have praised the new law.
“It is pretty sad that for so long we made decisions about whether somebody should be detained based on the money they had in their pocket,” Cook County (Chicago) public defender Sharone Mitchell Jr. said.
From now on, those accused of felonies like theft or dealing meth where no violence was involved will no longer be jailed awaiting trial.
Those accused of violent crimes and sex offenses can be jailed with no bail if a state’s attorney can convince a judge within 48 hours of arrest that the suspect is a danger to others or a flight risk. Porter falls into that category.
Nearly two-thirds of Randolph County’s 15 cash bail defendants will be freed because they are currently being held on what will no longer be detainable offenses under state law.
“I have a concern. I think we all do. I still think it’s a bad idea in many ways, but we’re past that,” Kelly said. “The (IL) Supreme Court has spoken. This is the law. We’re past whether or not it’s a good idea. Now we’re at the point where we need to make it work. It’s going to be a learning experience not only for us, but for the courts and defense attorneys. We’re going to get there.”
They’ll be watching closely in Red Bud.
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