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La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Ramona Gonzalez provided a response to criticism about setting bond during a court hearing Dec. 21. Here are her remarks:

In this world in which we have diplomacy and federal government doing its business on Twitter, that is not the business of justice; and it is not the business of courts in this state.

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez

So I think it's appropriate to educate the individuals who are being held and will be considered for bond today, as well as the public here present, and anyone from the media, this is all I intend to say. I do not intend to give any interviews or make any statements.

Justice in the state of Wisconsin is that, justice, and we are a state of laws; and our laws begin in the Constitution of Wisconsin in which in Article I, Section 8(3)(a) every citizen of Wisconsin and noncitizen of Wisconsin, an individual who is arrested on suspicion of a crime here, is entitled to bail; is entitled to be released prior to conviction. The only encumbrance on that are conditions that are reasonable to assure the appearance of that individual.

We each have a role in justice. Law enforcement has a very important role. Their job is to intervene in the first instance, to arrest when they have probable cause. They don't get to arrest anybody they feel like. They arrest individuals that meet the criteria for arrest and probable cause.

The district attorney's office has an obligation. That obligation is to review the materials and submissions from law enforcement. They are not to rubber-stamp law enforcement.

They are to review, use their prosecutorial discretion, and issue a complaint, a criminal complaint, that is based upon facts, a complaint that they must believe they can prove in a court of law at some point beyond a reasonable doubt for that is their burden.

It is not for the judge to determine whether somebody is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That, ladies and gentlemen, is for a jury, and as I tell every juror that I have spoken that has sat in front of me and has been in those chairs where the inmates sit right now, that is a very heavy burden; and it is a burden that they bear; and they must decide beyond a reasonable doubt whether the state has met their burden.

Now, at this stage of the proceedings it is the job of the court to apply the law under the Constitution of the state of Wisconsin and under the laws of this state, and I am required to look at each individual individually and to make a decision about their bond based upon this criteria: will they be able to return to court to face the charges and to conclude the case.

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

So each one of you will have your bond considered carefully, and each one of you will have a determination made today that will comply with the law which is what is the conditions of bond that I can set that reasonably guarantee that you will be able to come back to court, not to punish you before you are convicted, but to assure that you are present for the process of justice.

Now, once a decision is made with regard to bond and you are given the privilege of bond and you violate that bond in a significant way, the state has the authority to file a petition with this court to vacate your bond. After a hearing at which it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that you are most likely guilty of the offense, you can be denied bond, and you can sit without bond for up to 60 days under the law when you will have your bond again reconsidered.

If a bond is set and you cannot meet that bond, you're entitled to have that bond reviewed because 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.

I have done that job for almost 24 years, and I will continue to do that job and continue to look at each of you individually. I'm not changing. That's what the law requires, and that's what I intend to do.

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(25) comments

Redwall

Its unfortunate that more attorneys dont seek to become judges. Then this debate about releasing violent repeat criminals on low bail could occur in open public forum between candidates, and citizens would gain knowledge and make an informed choice on how to cast their ballot.

As it is, the entire slate of incumbent county judges is without opposition in the spring 2019 elections.

While this speech was made by Judge Gonzales weeks ago, it does not go unnoticed the Tribune did not print it until the day after the deadline for registering as a candidate.

capedcrusader

What exactly are you implying?

The Mouse of Death

[angry]It would behoove us, because we are a nation of criminals, not of laws, to release as many violent offenders into the community as possible. We are indeed bemezzled by light sentences, low bond, early parole, slap-on-the-wrist probation so that violent people can shatter the non-violent people like the Rolling Stones song "Shattered" so don't you know the crime rate is going up, up, up and my brains been battered, shattered, shattered, shoobeee... doobeee!!!

capedcrusader

Bite the Big Apple!

Climatehoax

Bond is screwed up for sure. Let’s talk about the REAL problem, PROBATION, as a (non) punishment

Prairie

So how many of those you released on bond have not shown up for court. Seems to me La crosse county has a substantial warrant list of those who flee after posting bond and don't return for their day in court. Maybe a higher bond - one they could not pay - might be in order so they sit in jail until their trial. I also think when you catch a drug dealer who has drugs, guns and large amounts of cash you need to be aware that paying a few thousand dollars makes it clear they know how to beat the system.

oldhomey

Brilliant, Prairie. D'ya think maybe our judges and entire system of law enforcement is not cognizant of this? Or do you have scads of evidence that big-time dealers are routinely let out on skimpy bonds?

Redwall

Judge Gonzalez would have us believe judges have no leeway in setting bond.

Then why are both the offenders subject of this article now sitting in jail, with no bond or unable to make bond?

Both times they were arrested they were violating their previous bonds by committing additional felonies.

What's different now?

oldhomey

Duh! D'ya suppose, Red, that once somebody forfeits bond and fails to appear in court that they will not, upon re-arrest, be trusted with a new bond fee? Or do you subscribe to the theory that once arrested, nobody should be allowed out of jail until they have been tried and found not guilty? It would appear to be the latter.

Redwall

The accused person had violated terms of a prior bond when he shot up a house; and was then released after posting a minimal bond (the bond financed by a known drug dealer).

The accused sits in County Jail today after being yet again re-arrested for committing yet another felony. Oddly, the terms of bail are more stringent for the lessor of his crimes.

oldhomey

Oddly, Red? He was a repeat violator.

crank

Duh! D'ya 'spose oldhomey is acquainted with the facts surrounding this particular case or simply doing this because he has nothing better to do than continue bickering and trolling people he considers his political foes?

Jesse Turnmire is a repeat offender, tried and convicted on various felonies over the course of several years. He's a frequent-flier who continues to get lenient treatment time after time after time. This latest case of the shooting is his most serious charge yet. He shot into a home! (allegedly) Gonzalez set his bond at $2,500 for this very serious crime. Redwall is correct. He has been arrested and charged with lesser crimes where bond was set higher than it was for this crime. The information is a matter of public record via WCCA, State of Wisconsin and La Crosse County.

Today, he remains in jail after being arrested dealing meth (again) only hours after his release. They added bail-jumping to the charges because he violated the terms of the previous bond. Today, bond is again set at $10,000 cash. He can be released again if he pays this even though he violated the terms of his previous bond. I don't suppose Judge Gonzalez will lower it again. But if he promises her not to do anything bad while he's out THIS time, maybe she will.

oldhomey

Gosh, I was a bit upset to have you accuse me of trolling, crank. Then I thought I might not understand the term trolling, so I Googled it: "n Internet slang, a troll is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses[2] and normalizing tangential discussion,[3] whether for the troll's amusement or a specific gain. "

I think you are being a little unfair to me, crank. I may be wrong in my facts, but when I get on these discussion boards I almost always confront the facts or lack of them that you, Red and others I disagree with when you post. That is what I am doing in this case. I haven't seen Judge Gonzalez do anything in the performance of her duties that crossed the bounds of her mandate. You (allegedly) have it on good information that she has. You simply haven't produced any facts that would back that up, nor has Red.

canman

Ramona is trying to justify her past actions, the purpose of bond is to ensure the accused shows up for trial and to protect the public. She cannot explain why she lowers bonds when situations dictate the opposite, nor can she explain some of her sentencing decisions.

Conservative Grandma

Very clearly explained! Bravo Ramona and I believe you speak for the other Judges in La Crosse County as well. Now if Rob Abraham were also a decent person, he would reach out to you and thank you for educating those who will come before you in your courtroom, the police and the general public. I applaud you! Keep doing what you're doing.

crank

Fair enough, Judge Gonzalez...

Now please explain why you first set bond at $10,000 and then reduced it to $2,500 for this fellow the Assistant Chief and the La Crosse PD rounded up for firing a weapon into someone's home? Apparently, you DO have some discretionary authority which you used. You did not explain why you chose to reduce his bond. Why wouldn't you have set it to $2,500 initially if that were the appropriate, 'non-willy nilly' amount which should have been set?

Mr. Abraham, officers in the La Crosse PD and members of the community may think your job is easy. I'm betting it is not so simple as many of your critics would suggest. If it was a great job, perhaps someone would run against you. So far, nobody seems envious of your 'simple' job.

In some cases, however, I think your job is quite simple. The law gives you the authority to sentence criminals AFTER they are convicted. There are guidelines and minimums. Personally, I would expect a first-time, non-violent offender to receive the benefit of your discretion and leniency allowed by law if convicted by a jury (within the minimum and maximum sentencing parameters written into the law). Where the Asst Chief, the PD and the public are most critical of you is when an obviously dangerous individual re-offends again and again and again . The PD arrests him, the prosecutors build a case, the defendant has his trial, the jury hears the evidence in court and convicts him/her (again) based upon that evidence but then you let him go back out on the streets with probation. In the case of violent offenders, the public and the law enforcement officers are very likely placed at risk because these types of criminals will almost certainly break the law again, they have demonstrated a pattern of obtaining and using weapons. In these cases, your job seems pretty simple.

It becomes frustrating when everyone involved is doing their job except our judges. Aric A. Elmore is a perfect example, although Judge Levine was the judge who gave this man probation rather than jail. Chief Ron Tischer was openly critical of that sentence at the time.

Perhaps the next explanation/lecture you can provide in court is the purpose of sentencing.

capedcrusader

Still... she IS following the law and guidlines. Law enforcement knows what their job is and it's up to them to do it too. If THEY have a problem with it or a Judge, there are proper channels to take to get their grievances resolved. A letter to the paper airing your dirty laundry isn't going to do much to help matters. I think Abraham knew that too. Or he should have. Anyone in law enforcement knows there is a chain of command in getting differences settled. The court of public opnion doesn't always resolve that even with our election process. He and his superior should know that by now and if they don't they need further training in those areas. Nobody's job is easy so before your heart bleeds to much for the officers in uniform try to be a little more undertsanding of the Judges in theirs. Discretion and common sense are a part of both of those professions. They don't always get it right but I believe most of the time they do.

crank

I believe I covered these things... fully.

You stated in your reply to me that anyone in law enforcement knows there is a chain of command. In the instance I provided as an example where the Chief criticized the no-jail sentence imposed upon Aric Elmore by Judge Levine and this instance of the Assistant Chief's criticism of Judge Gonzalez's reduction of bond from $10,000 to $2,500, please explain what additional training is required for anyone regarding the chain of command. They are the top of the chain. Enlighten us!

I assume (probably no more or less than you do) that private communication has already taken place between the police and the local judges. We can further assume that those grievances have been left unresolved based upon the now public airing of those grievances you call "dirty laundry". Actually, since these judges are elected, a letter airing these unresolved grievances probably serves an important purpose which is to make the public fully aware of those circumstances which defy reason and common sense. Perhaps someone will challenge the incumbent judges as a result of these very public and pointed criticisms. Perhaps (as I stated) it isn't a job anyone really wants.

oldhomey

Crank, Judge Gonzalez explained fully the parameters within she must work in establishing bail. An assistant police chief may take exception to what she decided within those parameters, but he is not the judge, she is. She is an extraordinarily intelligent and compassionate human being, and the city is lucky to have a jurist of her skill in its service. Can she have made a shaky decision once in awhile? Do you know of any human being who has never slipped up a little? Her mistakes, whatever they have been, have been miniscule, and her service has been extraordinarily beneficial to the community for more than two decades. Your screen name serves you well, but we don't have to take you seriously.

crank

Actually, she didn't fully explain the parameters she must work within while establishing bail. She did not explain those parameters at all. She did not explain the reduction in bail from $10,000 to $2,500.

You're correct; Assistant Chief Abraham is not the judge and does not set bail. He does have the right to voice his criticism, as does any citizen, when he disagrees with the judge's actions. Chief Ron Tischer has the right to complain publicly, just as any citizen, when he believes the sentences imposed by the judge are too lenient. Both explained their reasons.

I've offered my opinion. Now you've offered your own. Please note that I offered mine without making petty comments about screen names or by getting personal.

oldhomey

Noted, crank. I stand by what I said. You think you are simply evoking common sense. I think what you think is common sense is bad logic. Police have the right, too, to air grievances if they think a judge is wrong, but they had better use that right very sparingly if it smacks more of political posturing rather than registering a valid grievance.

crank

And I agree with the Chief and the Asst Chief in their specific criticism of two judges for not protecting the public from career felons with a history of violence including weapons charges.

Turnmire is charged with firing a weapon into a home. Aric Elmore has a long list of felony convictions over the course of his career. He was convicted of firearms charges and also of violence against police. To me, denying bond to Turnmire because of the serious and violent nature of the charge. He shot up a house (allegedly). These are the cases you hear of little kids struck and killed by a stray bullet. Sentencing Elmore to prison for weapons charges rather than releasing him on probation and denying bond to a guy fires a weapon (which he shouldn't have) into a home is common sense based upon good logic.

Bad logic would be liberals who demand MORE gun laws who then turn around, defend and excuse local judges who put felons like Elmore and Turnmire who violate the existing gun laws back out on the street.

capedcrusader

crank - I stand by my comment. If there was unresolved communication that you assume took place, an article in the paper is not going to help the matter. Abraham sounds to me like an officer getting burned out from stress. Every job where people who put their life on the line has stress. (Police officers, Armored Car officers, Fire personnel, military personnel,etc). It's rare when any of them feel the need to raise their grievance in a newspaper. There are principles that they and their employer should observe to rectify the situation. Have you ever seen what happens when a professional athlete does or says anything about their problems in the press? They get fined. Now, he didn't say anything against his employer but I'm wondering just what exactly he hopes to accomplish by using this method. I'm not convinced he did anyone any favors as far as getting it solved. I'm betting he wouldn't have done that if he wasn't working for the city and protected by his union. Maybe he and the Chief ought to take a little time off and decide how much longer they really want to stay in law enforcement.

crank

As I stated, it’s likely I’m assuming no more or less than you are. Maybe they’re burned out but perhaps their method is, as I stated already, their own attempt at solving what they see as a problem. Are the chief and assistant chief protected by the union? More assumptions? You didn’t answer... how was the chain of command not followed? While we’re buddy assuming, I’m betting officersin the LPD followed the chain of command and their commanders perhaps voiced the same complaints they’ve heard from officers.

The 1st Ammendment protects the chief and assistant chief and anyone else who would criticize an elected judge. You wonder again what he hopes to accomplish. Again, I suspect they’re hoping their public criticism will lead to a challenge in the next election. This was asked and answered already.

capedcrusader

Well, I don't believe their hoping and waiting "for the next election". I think they thought they were doing the right thing by taking this public and I just think their wrong. I'm not concerned with voicing an opinion or concern. I believe there is a right way and a wrong way and I believe they made the wrong choice. If their professionals they shouldn't have to resort to this way of dealing with things. I'm not arguing the merits of being allowed to do it. My concern is the method. If they can't do it better maybe they should consider what I said about staying in law enforcement.

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