Rantz: Seattle judge sets shockingly low bail on drive-by shooting of cop
King County District Judge pro tem David O set shockingly low bail for two suspects accused in a drive-by shooting against a Renton officer. Police officers are livid, and the judge won’t return requests for comment.
According to police documents, Frankie Taijon Robertson is accused of firing 15 rounds at a Renton police officer as she was idling at a stoplight just about a block away from the precinct. Lamonta Joseph Steward was allegedly driving the vehicle. Police say this was a targeted shooting.
Prosecutors asked for $1 million for Robertson and $250,000 for Steward. While O found probable cause, he lowered the bail to just $50,000 each.
David O goes easy on dangerous suspects with criminal records
It’s hard to understand what David O thought when he offered such low bail. (O is his full last name).
The shooting was caught on surveillance video, which was noted in the police documents submitted during the suspects’ first appearances. A Glock with an extended, high-capacity magazine was found in the car. It even noted that Robertson, a convicted felon, is a suspect in another shooting at a police officer.
“At Mr. Robertson’s first appearance, we asked the first appearance judge to set bail at $1 million,” King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney said. “We believe that the bail set Thursday afternoon by a District Court judge ($50,000) was not appropriate given Mr. Robertson’s dangerous actions posed to multiple people.”
Somehow, the Renton officer was not injured in the shooting.
At a charging hearing in front of a separate judge, Robertson’s bail was increased to $500,000, fixing Judge O’s error. Steward’s bail remained the same.
So what could motivate O to go so easy on these two suspects? You need to look at his background.
David O’s bias towards defendants
Like so many King County judges who tend to offer light sentences, O has a background as a defense attorney. In this case, he’s currently a defense attorney.
As a judge pro tempore, he doesn’t sit on the bench full-time; he’s a substitute judge called in when necessary. His full-time job is to defend criminals. Indeed, he brags that he focuses all of his time on criminal law instead of diversifying his legal offerings. Who needs to focus on constitutional or family law when you can devote your life to defending suspects accused of domestic violence, sex crimes, and hit and run?
Judges are supposed to leave their bias outside of the courtroom. But in this case, it doesn’t seem like O was willing to betray his loyalty to criminal suspects.
I spoke with O briefly on Friday morning. After he confirmed he was the judge on the case, he said he was driving and that he would speak to me later in the afternoon. He didn’t pick up the phone when I called several times a few hours later. He didn’t respond to a voicemail either.
Cops are livid with the decision
Renton officers were understandably livid. So, too, were Seattle officers who have been working on several open cases where they suspect Steward’s involvement.
Renton Police Chief Jon Schuldt released a statement thanking the community for its support, but chided the judge for lowering the bail from what the prosecutor recommended.
“They do deserve their due justice afforded them by our just system, but a high bail ensures that they would stay incarcerated pending that process. Both, through their actions, have clearly demonstrated a disregard or concern for the rights and safety of others,” Schuldt wrote.
This was just the latest slap in the face for police in a region that doesn’t take their safety seriously. Officers routinely work hard, long hours, putting their lives on the line, only to see suspects walk with low bails or no charges. This time, one of their own was nearly gunned down, and a judge doesn’t care?
Added stress on the day bail was lowered
Adding to the stress felt by police, officers heard the suspects were being bailed out by a local nonprofit after the judge lowered the bail so dramatically.
Officers believed if either were released on bail, they would flee the state to avoid a lengthy prison sentence for their alleged crimes.
“Tensions are already high in the law enforcement community. Many departments are understaffed, and officers are feeling tremendous pressure,” Washington Fraternal Order of Police president Marco Monteblanco said in a statement. “Deliberate acts of violence that are clearly intended to kill an officer should be met with an appropriate response by the justice system. We appreciate the efforts of the second judge who intervened given the severity of the situation and increased the bail for the shooter, given his actions. Frankly, we’d still like to see higher bail for both suspects given the circumstances of this act.”
Both suspects are still in custody.
Robertson has since been charged with Drive-By Shooting, Second-Degree Assault with a firearm enhancement, and First-Degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree. Steward was charged with Rendering Criminal Assistance in the Second Degree and Attempting to Elude a Pursuing Police Vehicle. Their arraignments are scheduled for Sept. 23.
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