A potentially catastrophic soft-on-crime reform enacted in New Mexico and now threatening to spread to other states has outraged national security advocates by allowing the alleged leaders of a Muslim terrorist training compound to be granted bail by a Democrat judge.
Excessive bail requirements have long been forbidden by the Eighth Amendment (1791) to the U.S. Constitution. But the no-cash-bail movement that made the recent release of these Islamic militants possible is a subset of the treacherous anti-incarceration movement that’s been sweeping the nation. Changes to New Mexico’s bail laws were approved by voters in 2016. Similar changes are being considering in New Jersey and California. San Francisco already lets accused rapists and kidnappers out on bail.
In a nutshell, leftists like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), joined by more than a few conservatives and Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, is arguing that the very idea of bail itself is unfair because poor defendants are going to have more trouble raising cash to get released from jail pending trial than wealthier defendants. Whether or not they are actually guilty of the crimes they are charged with, keeping poor people in pretrial detention is somehow unjust, left-wingers claim. Among the notable leftist groups backing this attack on the institution of bail are the ACLU, the ACORN successor group known as Texas Organizing Project, Color of Change, and Black Lives Matter.
Here is a quick recap of what just happened in New Mexico.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj Jr. of Clayton County, Ga., was arrested after authorities found 11 hungry, filthy children living in squalid conditions in Taos County in a remote part of New Mexico near the Colorado state line. Wahhaj, who has been charged with felony child abuse, had reportedly been training the children to commit school shootings. The remains of a three-year-old disabled boy, since identified as Wahhaj’s son, were discovered on the property which was filled with weapons. Five defendants were arrested but then granted bail, over the objections of prosecutors.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) said she "strongly disagreed" with the court’s decision to free the defendants.
"You have a person who is training kids to shoot up schools, they have a compound that is like a third-world country," said State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi. "There's a child's body on the compound — I believe that allowing them to be released is absurd."
Each of the five defendants –Wahhaj, Lucan Allen Morten, Hujrah Wahhaj, Jany Leveille, and Subhannah Wahhaj— has been charged with 11 counts of child abuse. Siraj Ibn Wahhaj Jr. has also been charged with being a fugitive from justice. Morton is charged with harboring a fugitive.
Wahhaj is the son of an influential Democrat-connected jihadist imam who shares his name. The elder Wahhaj, who is deeply involved in Democratic Party politics and is tied to international terrorism, was close to the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of orchestrating the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 that left seven people (including an unborn baby) dead. Rahman died in prison last year.
Much to the prosecutors’ chagrin, the state’s request to deny bail to the five terrorists who ought never to see the light of day again was shot down by Sarah C. Backus, a Democrat who is a judge in the Eighth Judicial District of New Mexico. Backus was reelected in 2014 for a term that expires at the end of 2020.
Citing a voter-approved state law she claimed left her no choice but to order the release of the jihadist quintet, Backus set bail at a mere $20,000 per defendant with no up-front deposit, along with a requirement that they be placed under house arrest and wear an electronic monitoring device. They face a financial penalty if they violate the terms of their bail. (Read the bail order here.)
Evidence that a child died at the terrorist training compound and that 11 children were abused there by Muslim fanatics apparently had no effect on Backus who rejected claim after claim presented by prosecutors.
"All this information is troubling and unusual but it is not clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness," the judge determined.
"The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot but the state hasn't shown to my satisfaction and by clear and convincing evidence what that plan was," Backus ruled, adding that none of the defendants has a criminal record.
Judge Backus also played cute, ignoring the role that Muslims played in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that left 3,000 dead and thousands more injured, as well as the steady stream of Muslim terrorist attacks and attempted attacks in the U.S. that have followed in the years since.
It was as if Backus was attempting to preemptively immunize herself against possible claims at her next ACLU cocktail party that she was an anti-Muslim bigot.
In her bail order she included this baffling digression:
“The defendants are apparently of the Muslim faith. Siraj ibn Wahhaj made a trip to Saudi Arabia last year. (The State admitted that observant Muslims by their faith are required to visit Mecca once in their lifetimes.) The Court was asked by the State to make a finding of dangerousness and a finding that no conditions of release could insure the safety of the community. The State apparently expected the Court to take the individuals' faith into account in making such a determination. The Court has never been asked to take any other person's faith into account in making a determination of dangerousness. The Court is not aware of any law that allows the Court to take a person’s faith into consideration in making a dangerousness determination.”
After siding with the Islamists, Backus has faced death threats. Her supporters defend her by pointing to the 2016 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution governing the pretrial detention and release of people charged with crimes.
Before the so-called bail reform was enacted, bail could only be refused to a defendant facing a capital felony, one with two or more felony convictions in the state, or one accused of a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon if the defendant had a felony conviction in New Mexico.
The amendment, according to an official legislative analysis, allowed:
“bail to be denied for a defendant who has been charged with a felony if the prosecutor can prove to a judge that the defendant poses a threat to the public. The proposed amendment would also provide that a defendant who is not a danger to the community or a flight risk cannot be denied bail solely because of the defendant's financial inability to post a money or property bond.”
In other words, the change in the law gave poor people a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. Even obviously dangerous poor people like Wahhaj and his four fellow soldiers of Allah can’t be kept behind bars while awaiting trial in New Mexico.
New Mexico offered this startling, dishonest rationalization for the new approach to bail:
New Mexico, like the federal government and an increasing number of states in recent years, has been changing old dysfunctional practices to better protect public safety and improve the fairness of its pretrial justice system. Every jurisdiction that has seriously studied the problem has concluded that meaningful reforms in the way we distinguish between arrestees we hold in jail pretrial and those we allow to remain free until their guilt is determined at trial can be accomplished only by moving from a money-based system to an evidence-of-risk-based system of release and detention.
Of course the old time-honored system of bail doesn’t ignore evidence at all and isn’t actually “money-based.” It merely provides an incentive in the form of potential financial penalties to defendants thinking of absconding before trial. Only a Marxist convinced of the fundamental unfairness of markets would call such an evidence-centered system money-based.
Which must be why Bernie Sanders supports misguided so-called reforms like those in New Mexico that are keeping scary Muslim militants like Siraj Ibn Wahhaj Jr. on the streets.