LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys tell the I-Team they agree that bail reform is evident in Nevada as defendants accused of more serious crimes are being released on their own recognizance or getting lower bails more frequently.
The I-Team examined several cases involving allegations of sex crimes against children.
Reino Pina-Castillejo was released on his own recognizance, meaning he didn’t have to pay anything and he was on electronic monitoring. Police say that a GPS monitor later tracked him to a murder.
Court records show Aaron Harris’ bond was set at $150,000 dollars with electronic monitoring. Nevada state law allows a defendant to pay a bondsman 15% of that to be released from jail. Police say Harris’ GPS also tracked him to a murder.
Ramon Leyva-Martinez’s bail was set at $1,000 dollars with no electronic monitoring.
Now he’s a fugitive.
“A low bail was set and sure enough the person bailed out and didn’t return to court and this person is gone in the wind,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said. Prosecutors had argued for a higher bail.
According to a police report, a relative told police last year that Leyva-Martinez molested her multiple times in 2015 while she was a child.
He was arrested, he faces four felony counts, and records reveal that last November, Las Vegas Justice Court Judge Joe Bonaventure set bail at one thousand dollars and ordered Leyva-Martinez to stay away from the victim.
A warrant was issued in March. Sources told the I-Team that Leyva-Martinez is likely now in Mexico.
“Whether he’ll return is a big question mark. Whether he’ll get picked up on a warrant. Whether he’s even in the country,” Wolfson added.
The bail bondsman involved in the case told the I-Team that he has collateral on Leyva-Martinez so he will not lose money because he did not return to court, and he does not plan to search for him because the bond is so low.
He also said he has noticed that defendants in more serious cases are being released on their own recognizance or with lower bails compared to more than two years ago.
“I think our justices and our judges here at the RJC have done a great job of appreciating the fact that we are going through a transition phase in the criminal justice system,” Kyle Cottner, a criminal defense attorney said. “The judges recognize that you are presumed innocent and that a bond shouldn’t be punitive meaning it shouldn’t be to punish you.”
Both Cottner and Wolfson agree it is rare for a defendant to skip court and even more rare to flee the country. They both point out that judges are faced with tough decisions.
“As prosecutors, we feel very strongly in sex crimes that the person potentially be both a flight risk and a danger to the community,” Wolfson said. “Question is whether the right people are in jail or not. The people that commit violent crimes. I’m afraid of them. You should be afraid of them. They should not be out on the streets.”
The I-Team reached out to Chief Judge Melissa Saragosa about the issue. A Clark County spokesman replied and said that an interview cannot be done because of the Nevada Code of Judicial conduct.