The Justice Files: Bail, no bail

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It was a call of shots fired and police responded quickly.

On March 16, David Barnett was arrested and booked into jail for shooting at the driver of a vehicle.  He fired at least seven shots, but never hit the driver.  

In a probable cause statement filed by Salt Lake police, the officer felt differently. In the jail document, the officer stated there was already a warrant for Barnett’s arrest. He fled the state after the 2018 incident. 

“There is substantial evidence (he) would constitute…a danger to the community,” the officer wrote.

But Barnett spent about seven hours in jail and was released without posting any bail. A Salt Lake prosecutor and a judge agreed on those conditions.

It’s the same treatment for Ray Rich and Trevor Shepherd. Both face misdemeanor charges for domestic violence incidents, yet different judges released them immediately.

“What’s really going on is how people are being treated,” said criminal attorney Clayton Simms. “It’s arbitrary in how bail is set.”

During the past legislative session, lawmakers learned their so-called bail reform law backfired. The idea was to allow those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies to avoid jail pending trial. But judges were releasing a substantial amount of defendants with first degree felonies with little or no bail.

Example, Collin James Montoya was charged with multiple counts of rape of a child, aggravated sex abuse on a child, and sodomy and sex abuse. Yet, a judge in February released him without posting any bail.

Simms is now defending Brent Walker, who was jailed for domestic violence, and a judge ordered no bail allowed. He has been in jail for a week without any chance of being released.

Simms said Walker is not a danger to the community.

“The charges are false,” said Simms. “The officer should have known they were false and that’s what’s egregious about this particular case.”

Walker was in court Wednesday afternoon for an initial appearance. But his attorney filed a motion Tuesday asking he be released because of a violation of the 8th amendment which deals with excessive bail.

The West Valley city prosecutor resisted Walker’s release. He told the judge the law is on their side.

“The crime is that he is a danger to the alleged victim and there’s substantial evidence that supports the charge,” said Corey Sherwin.

The judge denied the motion for bail. She claimed the filing didn’t give the prosecutor enough time to research and argue his position. Walker did get a May 3 date for another bail hearing. Meanwhile, he will remain in jail while defendants like Barnett, Rich, and Shepherd received different treatment for their alleged crimes.

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