By Ned Meiners
FRESNO, CA – Fresno County Superior Court Judge Heather Jones didn’t mince words here Wednesday after defendant Ibrahim Muhammed said he missed court because of illness.
If he fails to show again, his bail will jump from $10,000 to $320,000—about 32 times higher.
“This is your last opportunity to show up to court from now on, or I will ensure you are in custody and we will know where you are at, and you will show up to court that way,” threatened Jones.
In March the California Supreme Court ruled in In re Humphrey that courts must take into account a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail, and excessive amounts, such as this, may violate the due process clause of the California Constitution.
Muhammed has two separate cases, one for reckless driving and fleeing an officer and another for a concealed weapon. In both cases he has posted a bail bond. He has also missed one previous appearance.
Muhammed’s lawyer, Fresno County Assistant Public Defender Albert Silva, stated that Muhammed had been sick and was unable to attend the previous hearing.
“He doesn’t have a phone?” asked Judge Jones. “He has two lawyers in two cases, and he did not call one of them?”
Silva replied that the defendant did not have a phone at the moment, and the attorney himself had been unable to reach Muhammed.
Deputy District Attorney James Orr agreed with the defense that Muhammed had displayed a sincere effort to appear at his hearings, noting, “I do know that Mr. Muhammed is typically here with family.” stated the prosecutor.
In spite of his previous failure to appear, the DDA believed it was best that Muhammed’s bond be resumed and he remain out of custody. “His initial failure to appear was fairly early in the case,” explained Orr, “He’s been coming to court consistently for almost two years now.”
Silva then mentioned that he and Orr had discussed an agreement and a plea in the case could be coming shortly.
In light of a possible resolution, Judge Jones resumed the bond but explained her reservations.
“What this tells me is these amounts aren’t enough to convince you to stay in contact with your lawyers and get you to the courthouse on your court dates,” said the Judge.
Muhammed apologized and acknowledged his lapse in responsibility.
Judge Jones then threatened to increase Muhammed’s bond 32-fold, stating, “Just to be clear…your bond is only $10,000. I held a bench warrant to today’s date for $160,000. If you fail to appear again it’s going to be $320,000 and I’m not reassuming your bond.”
Although the California Supreme Court has ruled against excessively high bail, in the opinion of Judge Jones, it might be the only way to ensure his appearance.
Next hearing is scheduled June 2. The defendant is ordered to be present.
Ned Meiners is a Legal Studies student at City College San Francisco. Originally from Maine, he currently resides on Bernal Hill in San Francisco.
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