Feds prosecuting cases that fall into pretrial loophole
Alaska's algorithm-based pretrial risk assessment tool mandates that certain people who receive a low score be released without bail before trial but doesn't take into account out-of-state criminal history, giving potentially violent people a clean slate when they get to Alaska -- unless federal prosecutors step in.
"Clearly, the State's a separate sovereign and they have a right to govern themselves, and I'm not gonna criticize anything the State's doing-- but from our perspective, under the federal side, we use criminal history from everywhere, and I think that's the best way to evaluate whether somebody's dangerous and whether they're going to return and come back for their future hearings," said Alaska's U.S. attorney, Bryan Schroder.
One in three cases that qualify for mandatory release under the State's risk tool involves out-of-state history that is not accounted for in the computer-generated score.
Jessica Malcolm's is perhaps the most notable case exemplifying pretrial problems in Alaska. According to court documents, the California woman was arrested with a Glock and an extended 30-round magazine in her waistband following a midday shooting outside Shockwave Trampoline Park on a Saturday in January.
Malcolm has a felony history in California and isn't supposed to have guns-- but the risk tool didn't include that information when it scored her risk level at a zero, qualifying her for mandatory release.
"We filed a criminal complaint and got an arrest warrant and went to arrest her but she had already been released from the state system and hasn't come back," said Schroder, adding, "We believe she is out of the state."
Schroder says Malcolm's case is one of half a dozen to a dozen cases his office has taken on as a result of the pretrial risk tool.
"We'll get kind of a continuing series of recommendations or referrals from the State DA's Office or State AG on people they see as particularly dangerous that aren't going to fit within the tool that's used by the state and won't be able to be held by the judges," said Schroder.
He said the decision to take a case or pass it up is always based on the individual charged, their criminal history, and how great of a risk they could pose to Alaskans.
"If we can take that half dozen or a dozen to get them off the street, I think that protects the people of the state and that's what we're here to do," said Schroder.
It's not the first time the U.S. Attorney's Office has stepped up to help with crime in Alaska.
Last October, Schroder announced involvement in a multi-agency task force to combat violent crime. Part of the effort included charging some cases in federal court where stricter punishments are available.
In February, Schroder spoke at a news conference announcing a similar effort to get a handle on a rapidly growing car theft rate.
Gov. Bill Walker proposed a potential fix to the State's risk tool that would allow judges discretion to override mandatory release stipulations in cases in which out-of-state criminal history is present, but the measure is still pending legislative action.
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