EDITORIAL: Judges must be granted discretion with bail reform

Hudson County Sheriff Francis X. “Frank” Schillari proudly posed in front of it with some of his officers who helped to haul it all in. The Hudson County Sheriff’s Office paired with the Department of Homeland Security to find a tractor trailer that had, inside it, $1.5 million worth of illicit marijuana.

Two human beings were also in the truck, so the bust was, therefore, described as one of the biggest of all time in Hudson County. Seven hundred pounds-plus of pot seized.

It doesn’t get much better than that for a one-time bust.

And yet, the two men who were arrested and charged with possession and with manufacturing the drug with the intent to distribute it were, within hours of their arrests, not behind bars at the Hudson County Jail.

No, instead, they were free as a bird, able to get back to work, doing what they do, because bail reform meant they had to be released from custody — on their own recognizance, no less! That’s $0 to roam free!

Just think of this, again, for a moment.

In what was described as one of the largest busts in the history of Hudson County, the two suspects were free to go on their merry way after making their first appearance before a judge. And the judge cannot be faulted for this. Only bail reform may be faulted.

If ever there was a case where New Jersey bail reform has failed, this is it. Judges’ hands are tied greater than the handcuffs were that the two suspects had on them following their arrest.

New Jersey lawmakers should be ashamed. This is not a case where a high bail — or remand — would have been unfair because of the suspects’ socio-economic status.

Instead, this sends them back on the streets. And who knows what they’re doing as they await trial. With the Department of Homeland Security involved with this bust, it’s safe to say these two aren’t out being of service to their communities.

While there are, indeed, some cases where bail reform makes sense, this is not one of them. Judges need discretion — in cases like this one — to apply bail or to remand suspects. And they need it now, before fools like these two are allowed to re-offend and put even more drugs on our streets. Someone in Trenton needs to take action. Now.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.