By GARY POPP
While judges typically serve in response to past criminal activity, Jeffersonville City Court Judge Ken Pierce is taking a proactive stance to prevent crimes, specifically, mob-driven violence during Thunder Over Louisville, he says.
Pierce has issued a no-bond order that prevents those arrested on select misdemeanor offenses in Jeffersonville from being released from jail before appearing in his court.
“With the potential for increased crowds and in light of the events in Louisville regarding mob violence and attacks, I just felt like I’d do my part and try to deter or discourage those activities on our side of the river,” Pierce said. “I know officials are trying to discourage it in Louisville right now, so I don’t want people to think they can come over here and act the same way, and I don’t want people already here to do copycat crimes.”
Pierce said those arrested on criminal mischief, criminal recklessness, battery or disorderly conduct charges during this weekend’s festivities will sit in jail under no bond until appearing before him in Jeffersonville City Court on Monday. The order does not apply to all misdemeanor charges, such as drunken driving or possession of marijuana, but only those misdemeanor charges Pierce believes are related to mob violence.
“This is my attempt to react to the potential mob issues in Louisville and the chance they could spread over here and the imitation [crimes] that could occur here,” he said, although he noted the policy will apply to the entire city and whether or not there was a crowd around.
Pierce said it is up to law enforcement to be on watch and enforce laws, but he wants to contribute to a safe Thunder Over Louisville celebration in Jeffersonville.
“My hands are relatively tied, but if anyone is going to get arrested in Jeff, I’ve decided I’m going to hold them without bond before they come before the court,” he said. “So that means they are going to face an extended period of time in jail, rather than what sometimes can result in a catch-and-release.”
For the charges that Pierce has issued the no-bond order to effect, an Indiana resident normally would expect to be given a $2,500 court-cash bond, and out-of-state residents would likely be given a $5,000 court-cash bond. Those offenders could then be released from the jail with $250 and $500 bond payments, respectively.
“My whole goal here is to prevent them from going to jail on an arrest, paying immediately then being released,” Pierce said, adding that without the no-bond order a person could be arrested early in the day, post a bond, then go back onto the street, emboldened by the arrest, and commit another offense.
He expects that when those arrested appear before him, they will be released on their own recognizance after their appearances in city court, which is held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Pierce said he is appreciative of the measures taken by the Jeffersonville Police Department and Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore to deter crime during Thunder Over Louisville, and the no-bond order is his way helping provided a safe and enjoyable community event. Pierce said the order went into effect Friday and will continue throughout the Kentucky Derby season. He has not set a hard deadline to lift the order.
“It has been well publicized that we have been waiting for this side of the [Big Four] bridge to open up, so I want the residents to feel they can go down and not have fear of consequences or adverse events occurring,” Pierce said. “I want to show my support for that bridge. I know Mayor Moore has worked really hard to get that up and rolling.”
The bridge is expected to open April 30.
Moore said he is supportive of Pierce’s effort to prevent the criminal activity that can disrupt community gatherings.
“I respect the judge’s decision, and I understand it,” Moore said. “As a father of three teenage kids and the mayor of the city Jeffersonville, safety is the first and foremost concern. I appreciate his efforts.”
Pierce said some of the mob violence that occurred in Louisville was carried out by juveniles, who do not appear in Jeffersonville City Court, but those over the age of 17 years old who commit the misdemeanor charges will appear before him.
The possible increase of inmates in the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex resulting from the no-bond order has been considered by Pierce and Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden.
“I don’t see it as much of a problem, and we both spoke and decided that if it does become a problem, we could re-evaluate,” Rodden said of the no-bond order.
Rodden added if the jail’s population does swell because of the arrests over Thunder Over Louisville that it would only be an issue until the following Monday when most of the offenders appearing in Pierce’s court would be released.