Electronic Tracking Devices

In January, Deangelo Rashard Mitchell was released from jail even though he is a reputed drug dealer. His bond was $150,000, and the assurance was given to authorities that every movement made by the North Charleston man would be caught by satellite monitoring. Prosecutors now say, however, that Mitchell went wherever he wanted at any time of the night and completely dismissed his house arrest conditions. He is accused of causing his brother’s death by forcing him to ingest cocaine at a fatal dose last year.

Even more alarming is the fact that the company monitoring his movements notified Frances Jenkins, the bail bondswoman, that Mitchell was probably involved in selling drugs, but she did nothing about it. The owner of Robinson GPS Monitoring, Jim Robinson, testified in court on Thursday that he told Jenkins of the suspicion that Mitchell was making drug transactions. Her response was to simply comment that this is how Mitchell makes his living. Robinson told the court that he then asked if she intended to pick Mitchell up for the violation, to which she responded that she would not.

The judge in the case, Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald, was outraged. She revoked Mitchell’s bail for repeated violations and remanded him back to jail. She sternly notified bail bonding companies that changes are coming, and it would behoove them to take the business of electronic monitoring much more seriously.

Scarlett Wilson, Ninth Circuit Solicitor, completely agrees. She believes this case represents merely the tip of the iceberg. Her office has begun a review of all the criminal defendants who are now on satellite monitoring to find possible violations. She has already found a case where the court-ordered monitoring of one defendant was completely discontinued for a nine-day period by one bonding company when the defendant had not paid what he owed for the service.

The validity of electronic tracking and its effectiveness has been in question for a number of years by prosecutors. It was called a sham back in 2002. In 2006, area magistrates stopped using monitoring temporarily when a rape suspect who was on house arrest became the suspect in another sexual assault that was committed while he had the tracking device on his body.

Authorities in the prosecutor’s office are giving credit to Robinson, whose satellite tracking company captured vital infractions that allowed him to alert their office. At the same time that the tracking information was revealing Mitchell’s escapades, his former girlfriend was divulging Mitchell’s violations to Robinson, who is a bail bondsman and former policeman.

It costs a bonding company money when violations are reported to authorities if their client is put back in jail. Solicitor Wilson is acutely aware that situations such as these put the general public at risk, undermine judges’ good intentions, and severely affect a victim’s sense of security. She believes it is not fair to the public, nor the victims, nor the judges. While the technology is good, the human element is the issue.

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