I restore the Balance
Posted On:8/01/2003 1:48pm
Style: I wear pants
Judge reduces bail for Glazer
By:Ryan Bagwell , Staff Writer 07/31/2003
A Hatboro man accused of indecently assaulting two juvenile females had his bail reduced by 90 percent July 16 after a local district justice denied any reduction last month.
Lee Glazer, the man who police say sexually assaulted two students at his Jenkintown Karate studio, was arraigned after his May 23 arrest and remanded to Montgomery County prison in lieu of $500,000 cash bail. At his June preliminary hearing, District Justice Michael Richman refused to lower his bail after Glazer attorney Stephen Jarrett argued the amount was "de facto denial" of bail. Glazer would never be able to gather that amount of cash, Jarrett argued. But Montgomery County Court Judge Lawrence Brown July 16 lowered Glazer's bail from half-a-million dollars to only $5,000, a 90 percent difference. Glazer was released that same day after the required sum was posted.
Richman declined to comment on the bail reduction, saying it was not proper to comment on Brown's decision. "He has the power to overrule me, I don't have the power to overrule him," Richman said. "He has the right to do that if he feels it's appropriate." According to one local bail expert, the sizeable difference between the bail Richman set and the bail Brown set leaves questions. "It's ludicrous is what it is, really," said David Goldkamp, a Temple University professor of criminal justice who has studied bail guidelines and trends nationally for more than 25 years. "When you see someone go from $500,000 to $5,000, you seem to think something's funny," he said. "It takes very little to cause people to be held." Goldkamp said judges might initially set high bail amounts at the time of an arrest because they have very little time to assess the accused's risk of flight and harm to others. Such initial concern is understandable, he said. But after judges have time to examine a person's history they have the ability to make more reasonable judgments about the defendant's risk of flight and harm to others, the two most common factors in determining bail, Goldkamp said.
Considering Richman did not lower Glazer's bail after the preliminary hearing, Goldkamp said politics might have contributed to that decision. Goldkamp said in high-profile cases, where the media has a strong interest, local judges are more prone to impose inflated bail figures because they are accountable to the local constituency. Such high bail figures send messages to voters that the justice is tough on crime, Goldkamp said. "The safest thing to do is to get your name in the paper and take a tough-guy stance," he said. Richman is running for re-election this year against Elkins Park attorney Michael McHugh, a race some say may be a challenge for Richman. However, he said that the coming election, and politics altogether, did not play a role in the Glazer case or any other judicial decision. "Politics doesn't influence me," Richman said. "It may influence other people." Local justices sometimes rely on higher court judges who are also elected but are usually more insulated from local politics, Goldkamp said. Their constituencies comprise a wider regional area, and they can make unpopular decisions without enduring the stinging criticism that local politics can bring, he said.
According to Goldkamp, the tendency to assuage a judge's concern about a defendant's flight with money is failed policy in itself. Throughout Pennsylvania's judicial system, judges tend to focus on the amount it would take to keep one from fleeing and causing harm to others instead of the risk of flight and harm to others. "It's a very American thing to do to translate worries about fleeing and being a danger to society into dollars," Goldkamp said. Pennsylvania's judicial system is one of the worst in terms of being influenced by politics, Goldkamp said, especially in Philadelphia. He said bail differences, such as in the Glazer case, are not uncommon, but they are harmful to the judicial system as well. "It's not odd," Goldkamp said about large bail reductions by higher judges. "But is it appropriate? Absolutely not."
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