La Crosse judge defends role of bond in justice system after assistant police chief calls her out

La Crosse judge defends role of bond in justice system after assistant police chief calls her out

From the From Tribune files: Top crime stories of 2018 series
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La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Ramona Gonzalez isn’t backing down after an assistant police chief called her out after a shooting suspect was re-arrested earlier this week in a drug bust just four hours after posting the $2,500 cash bond Gonzalez had set.

Gonzalez used the first few minutes of her time presiding over Friday’s intake session to talk about the role of bond, a day after La Crosse Assistant Police Chief Rob Abraham complained about the case in a department release headlined “The Revolving Door of La Crosse County.”

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez

Gonzalez said she wouldn’t give interviews, tweet or talk to media but would instead “educate” people at court about the different branches of the justice system and their function.

“I am not the queen although I wish I was. I do not just get to set willy nilly what I want,” Gonzalez said. “It is not my job to set (bond) and to rule based upon anger, or what other people think, but about justice and the law.”

She commented on the role of police.

“Law enforcement has a very important role. Their job is to intervene in the first instance, to arrest when they have probable cause,” Gonzalez said. “They don’t get to arrest anybody who they feel like. They arrest individuals that meet the criteria for arrest and probable cause.”

She explained her job as a judge setting bond: “The purpose of bond is not to keep you in jail just to keep you in jail, but to keep you in jail until it can be determined that you can be released with the certainty that you will return to have justice be done.”

Matthew Symitczek

Symitczek

Jesse Turnmire, 29, of Bangor, was arrested Wednesday night, about four hours after being released from jail. According to a criminal complaint, investigators heard him speaking with Matthew “Big Ears” Symitczek, 32, who told Turnmire he was staying at the Candlewood Suites and would pay the $2,500 bond.

Jesse R. Turnmire

Turnmire

Investigators knew Symitczek was using and selling methamphetamine in the La Crosse area, according to the complaint. Turnmire was arrested about 10:30 p.m., carrying 10 to 15 grams of methamphetamine.

Matthew Symitczek

Symitczek

Authorities also discovered a large amount of cash and a pellet handgun in Turnmire’s vehicle, along with a box of handgun ammunition, more methamphetamine and suspected heroin in Symitczek and Turnmire’s hotel room.

Turnmire was charged Friday with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and three counts of felony bail jumping, all repeat offenses. Symitczek was charged with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and three counts of felony bail jumping.

Gonzalez set Turnmire and Symitczek’s bonds at $10,000. Conditions of both their bonds are drug testing with Justice Support Services and having no contact with each other.

La Crosse assistant police chief Rob Abraham

Abraham

“Mr. Turnmire is the perfect example of how each element of the system of justice does its job. I did my job, Mr. Turnmire, by setting your bond by what I believe is an appropriate amount to continue appearances,” said Gonzalez. “Thank you for demonstrating to my community that the system works, Mr. Turnmire.”

Abraham on Thursday said Turnmire had presented a danger to the community after the initial shooting incident and that Gonzalez should have set a higher bond.

“Firing bullets into a house is a serious community safety issue. In this incident I don’t believe that community safety was considered by lowering the bond. I don’t understand why our judges keep letting felons with guns consistently back onto the streets,” Abraham said.

Turnmire’s next court appearance is Dec. 27 and Symitczek’s is Jan. 3.


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