Judge Keeps Bail at $1 Million in Hate Crime Case

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Judge Dan Maguire on Friday rejected both a prosecution motion for no bail, as well as a defense motion for bail reduction, in the case of Lauren Kirk-Coehlo, accused of vandalizing and placing bacon on the door handles of the Islamic Center of Davis in January.  Judge Sam McAdam put $1 million bail on her prior to the arrest, and Judge Maguire, who will be hearing this case, decided to leave that in place.

He determined that if she were to make bail, she would have the requirements of GPS tracking, no weapons and no communication with the individual with whom she allegedly made threatening statements.

The defense continued to complain that they have not been provided with full documents to be able to put the allegedly threatening Twitter statements in proper context, both in terms of the broader statements and in terms of the sheer numbers.

Attorney David Dratman, representing Ms. Kirk-Coehlo, noted for instance that, while the two references to convicted killer Dylann Roof are deplorable in their content, they are also protected free speech.  Mr. Dratman argued that, while praise and glorification of mass murderers and also talk about “dreams and aspirations” of killing many people are statements that many would find objectionable, they are not tantamount to action.

The prosecution has pointed to statements such as the defendant wanting to acquire five guns, or perhaps 20, as threatening to the public, and he noted that she actually was qualified to possess as many firearms as she wanted under the law.

Once again, Mr. Dratman argued as he did in his motion that, based on the initial discovery, “it is clear that the perpetrator of this crime possessed no weapons or firearms of any type. The crimes charged are no crimes of violence or crimes involving threatened violence to a person or a group.”

A search of her residence found no weapons, no materials to make bombs, or evidence of any criminal activity.

“Rants don’t always translate into actions,” he said.  There is no evidence that she has been acting in a violent way.

“Hyperbole should not substitute for a judge’s ability to set appropriate conditions for release,” Mr. Dratman argued.  He noted that conditions could be attached to obey all laws – and also that this case is probation eligible and there is no mandatory prison associated with these charges.

He stated he believes that the conditions imposed could ensure that the community is protected.

Deputy DA Ryan Couzens was arguing for no bail under Article I, Section 12 of the California Constitution, subsection (b), “Felony offenses involving acts of violence on another person, or felony sexual assault offenses on another person, when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds based upon clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood the person’s release would result in great bodily harm to others.”

He noted that this is only the second time in his career that he has argued for “no bail.”

Judge Maguire immediately questioned how he could hold for a no bail ruling that this involves an act of violence on another person.

Mr. Couzens argued that “it is an act of violence,” the place of worship focused the act on the congregation itself, and he considered the smashed windows an act of violence.

When Judge Maguire suggested this was “metaphorical,” Mr. Couzens responded that if she stumped around this room, loudly smashing things, there would be a feeling of fear and violence.  He argued that “this gets us in the door for consideration of the risk to the public.”

Mr. Couzens then complained about not being ready to proceed on such short notice.  He said, “I had completely inadequate time,” saying that he was looking up case law until three in the morning, took a two-hour nap and continued.  That he put aside all other personal and professional obligations.

He complained that this was 22 pages, 36 cases and 20 points of law that he had to wade through and respond to.  He called it “manifestly unfair.”

In a passionate argument, as indicated, he said this is only the second time he has asked for no bail and that there are unusual circumstances whereby they need to extrapolate ill will directed toward the People.

He took exception to the use of the term “hyperbole” when he said she flat out stated, “I want to kill many people” – and she said it the day before she allegedly committed the crime in this case.

Mr. Couzens argued that, given her admitted bipolar disorder, it makes her even more dangerous and more out of control.  He argued that there was no way if she were released that we could look at the victims in this case and say that we thought we were making a safe decision.

David Dratman responded that this was not a violent act and he noted the many instances in recent times where there were much more violent threats. For instance, he referenced Madonna’s comment about thinking about blowing up the White House and Trump’s comment about the Second Amendment people potentially doing something about Hillary Clinton.

He argued that keeping the defendant in this case in custody doesn’t seem to balance the concerns that Mr. Couzens had about preparation time.  He pointed out that the prosecution and law enforcement had control over when she would be arrested and, if they were not ready proceed, they had the option of dropping the charges and reinstating them.

Judge Maguire quickly set aside the motion for no bail.  He simply stated that he found that the exceptions to bail do not apply.

In terms of the setting of bail, he disputed that there was ever a point where they could not consider public safety in determining the appropriate bail amount.

The question then came down to how to make use of the statement attributed to the defendant.  He noted that, while she has the First Amendment right to free speech, at the same time, words do become actions.

The aspiration to kill many people and the attempt to get a gun are not something he can simply dismiss out of hand or discount.

Therefore, he denied the motion to reduce bail and held bail at $1 million.

The case is set to go to preliminary hearing March 6, and the defendant has not waived time.  However, there are a number of discovery issues that need to be addressed, with the defense wanting a full record of her reported statements.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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