The revolving courthouse door

COLUMBIA, 7/31/16 (Beat Byte) -- In an endorsement of Boone County judicial candidate and acting Circuit Judge Jeff Harris, the Columbia Police Officers Association has tackled what may be the thorniest law enforcement issue facing communities today. 

Hardened (or hardening) criminals walking out courtroom doors to commit more crimes. 

Harris' opponent, incumbent Judge Deborah Daniels (left), is too likely to grant bail, home detention, unsupervised probation, suspended sentences, and other lax punishments that actually encourage offenders to offend again, CPOA members claim.  

"Judge Daniels has repeatedly let career criminals off with little more than a slap on the wrist," said CPOA president Alan Mitchell.   "Harris is the only candidate our officers can trust to recognize and adequately address the gravity and impact of public safety issues."  
The police group based its endorsement on a database of court decisions, "broken down by Judge and defendant," Mitchell explained.   "In numerous cases, Judge Daniels has allowed dangerous and career criminals to commit serious crimes such as unlawful use of a weapon, possession of drugs, and assault on a police officer, and then go free with little or no punishment or permanent record," he added. 

Charged in April with a shooting that injured two people, Johnathan N. Banks has appeared before Daniels several times.    Suspending a jail sentence for a 2012 assault, Daniels instead sentenced him to unsupervised probation, which he violated in 2013.   

That year, Banks appeared before Daniels at least four times. 

She sentenced him to 30 days in jail for each of three 1st degree trespass and resisting arrest convictions.   He was back on the streets in less than three months.   
A subsequent theft conviction netted Banks a 60-day jail sentence, which Daniels suspended, instead ordering supervised probation, which he again violated.  

On probation for felony 1st degree burglary, Banks was back in front of Daniels in 2014 on another trespass charge.  

Between hearings, negotiations, continuances, and arraignments, that case dragged on for nearly two years with a similar result. 

Judge Daniels suspended a jail sentence; ordered probation, which Banks violated; revoked the probation; and in March 2016, declared that Banks had successfully served his new sentence:  detention -- at home!   

Other serious offenses have also escaped serious punishment in Daniels courtroom, CPOA maintains.   Marcus L. Thurmond appeared before Daniels after he was arrested for assaulting a police officer and sexual misconduct in 2014. 

For the police officer assault, she sentenced Thurmond to six months in jail, then suspended that sentence in favor of supervised probation, which she dropped to unsupervised probation about a month later.  

On another assault charge that year, Daniels handed Thurmond five days in jail.   

The Heart Beat has reported on judicially-encouraged recidivism before, most notably the case of Malcolm D. Redmon
After nearly 15 years of shooting, assaults, on other felony convictions, Redmon pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to his role as the second in command of a major drug and prostitution conspiracy in Columbia. 

Daniels faces Harris Tuesday for the Circuit Court seat Judge Gary Oxenhandler vacated for mandatory retirement.