Man arrested again after being released early under “First Step Act”. It gives criminals lenient sentences.

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CALDWELL COUNTY, NC – A man who was touted as one of the poster children for President Trump’s First Step Act, a means to offer those convicted of various non-violent crimes more lenient sentences, was arrested again last month.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Troy Powell was arrested in February for being involved with what the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office described as a “major methamphetamine distribution” operation.

The sheriff’s office noted that the alleged drug trafficking operation had been under surveillance for three months prior to the February arrests.

Of the narcotics recovered during the bust, the North Carolina State Drug Guidelines said the seized meth carried an estimated street value of $291,300.

Three other suspects were arrested for their alleged involvement of the methamphetamine operation. They were 44-year old Jeremy Matthew Magnus, 33-year-old Angela Marie Dale, and 35-year-old Heather Nicole Swanson.

Powell, as well as the other suspects involved in the drug ring, were transferred over to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and are in custody under a $500,000 secured bond each.

What could be the most frustrating aspect in all this was the second chance that Powell was afforded last year in April.

Not only did he benefit from an early release due to the bi-partisan passing of the First Step Act, he was invited to Washington, D.C. by Trump himself and was honored by the president.

Powell was twenty-six years old when he began a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to sell crack. Of that twenty years, he served fifteen years and six months before being granted an early release under the First Step Act.

Thanks to the legislation of the FSA, certain cases were reviewed with regard to their sentences to see if there might be instances where the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime.

Whether one agrees with the spirit of the FSA, there’s literally cases when people murder others and get less than twenty years in prison for numerous reasons. Hence, the existence of those sentences prompted a balancing of the proverbial scales.

During the press conference in April of 2019, President Trump made mention of Powell’s case while being ecstatic of the FSA:

“One of these newly freed Americans is Troy Powell, who is with us today. In 2004, Troy was sentenced to 20 years for doing a drug offense.”

The passing of the act afforded second chances for over 3,000 prisoners, casting aside the three-strikes life-sentencing provision for some offenses and modifying mandatory minimums.

Of all the people that could have possibly screwed up their second chance, it had to be the one guy Trump touted as a success story that winds up getting rearrested.

Both Republicans and Democrats applauded the First Step Act, which was heralded as the most significant action taken in pursuit of criminal justice reform in years.

This instance involving Powell, assuming he gets convicted of the new charges, would serve as a fodder for criticism against Trump’s efforts to create legislation that appeases both of the major parties.

Despite the caveats that the FSA has, at least it doesn’t come close to the nonsense perpetuated by bail reform in places like New York and Chicago. 

Last week, a woman committed three separate attacks on Chicago’s Red Line train.

Tatyona Davis is 19-years-old.  At the time of the attacks, Davis was free despite having been arrested for several other incidents, including robbery. 

I’m sure you can guess why she was free.

Yep. Bail reform.

Davis was free because she was released without bail, on her own recognizance, for the previous cases.

There are a lot of incidents involved here, but stick with me.

On February 24th, Davis was on the Red Line when she and a minor started throwing food at a sleeping man.  When a witness attempted to intervene, Davis and the minor sprayed the good Samaritan with pepper spray. 

The pepper spray victim identified the two when police tracked them down at a McDonald’s outside the Red Line train station.

Prosecutors charged the minor with battery, but declined charging Davis pending further investigation.

That didn’t stop prosecutors, however, from charging Davis for two other incidents.

The first was an attempted robbery and aggravated battery from February 23rd.

A 20-year-old woman was on an escalator at the Red Line station when someone came up behind her, sprayed her with pepper spray, and attempted to steal her bag.  The suspect began yelling for help, allegedly to confuse onlookers into thinking the suspect was actually the victim.

The suspect (later identified as Davis) pulled out a “long, shiny object” and proceeded to stab the victim in her chest.  This caused a puncture wound which sent her to the hospital.

Davis and ran out of the station, without the bag, and police were unable to locate her.

Davis was also charged with battery for a different incident on February 21st.  At that time, a woman said she saw two females acting “rowdy.” 

The woman went up the escalator and felt someone reaching in her pocket.  She turned around and saw the two “rowdy” females behind her. The females turned around and ran down the escalator (the wrong way) with the victim’s phone.

The victim chased the females and told them to drop her phone, which they did.  When the victim tried to pick up her phone, one of the females pepper sprayed her and punched her in the face. 

Finally, Davis is in jail with bail set at $50,000.  Judge Mary Marubio also ordered Davis to go onto electronic monitoring should she post bond.

Prior to these incidents, Davis allegedly attempted to rob a grocery store called Jewel-Osco.  When an employee attempted to stop her from shoplifting a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, Davis lunged at him and brandished a kitchen knife and pepper-spray.

During her arrest, police recovered a 6-inch kitchen knife, a 3-inch paring knife, and pepper-spray from Davis.

Records show Davis was charged with felony armed robbery, misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, and misdemeanor retail theft in that case. 

The other incident for while Davis was released on her own recognizance occurred on Jan. 14th at a Target store.  Davis stole $789 worth of clothing at that time.  Illinois’ felony threshold for theft is $300.  Despite the value of Davis’ theft that day, prosecutors refused to charge her with felony theft.

Davis was charged with misdemeanor retail theft in that incident.

So, clearly the bail reforms are working out pretty well for Chicago.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Then you’ve got New York, who seems to be competing with Chicago on who can release the most suspected criminals back on the street. 

A man who was charged for punching another man so many times that it led to his death has been released under New York’s bail reform. According to bail reform law, charges of criminally negligent homicide require that suspects be released with nothing more than an appearance date for court.

On February 27th, 31-year-old Randy Bailey Jr. was charged with criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of 49-year-old Robert Pickett in December of last year.

Syracuse Police responded to a 911 call on December 4th where the caller stated that Bailey was repeatedly striking Pickett in the head and face while “Pickett sat defenseless on a couch”.

When police arrived at the home located on 337 1/2 Shonnard St, Pickett claimed to not have any knowledge of a fight happening. Without a complainant to corroborate the 911 call, and police not seeing signs of sustained injuries at the time, no arrests could be made.

However, Pickett’s sustained injuries were more serious than anyone could have fathomed.

The day after the alleged beating, Pickett told his live-in girlfriend that he was having severe head pain. Then, he became unresponsive. Pickett’s girlfriend called an ambulance, and he was transferred to University Hospital, where medical staff realized that Pickett wouldn’t survive his sustained injuries. On December 9th, Pickett had died while in the hospital.

Just over two months after the death of Pickett, the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that his death was a homicide. The cause of death – blunt head trauma.

Criminally negligent homicide in New York is what’s known as a “Class E Felony”, which means, if convicted, Bailey would only serve up to four years in prison. While the lenient charging is a mess in it’s own right, the release of someone accused of hitting someone so many times that they died is despicable.

Why would we want someone walking about freely who was so careless in their alleged assault that someone died as a result?

The First Step Act has aspects, and will have undoubtedly more outcomes, worthy of critique. Yet, Trump’s efforts to balance the scales of justice aren’t anywhere near as egregious as the trendy bail reform in New York and Chicago. 

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