Former fugitive of the week out of jail, though prosecutors say he shouldn’t be

On The Lookout - Fugitive of the Week

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A fugitive sex offender was caught in Tampa, Florida thanks to a viewer’s tip, and brought back to Syracuse. He’s still in jail, right? Wrong.

Former fugitive of the week Angel Velez is out of jail, though prosecutors say he shouldn’t be.

Angel Velez’s 2005 sexual misconduct conviction landed him on the sex offender registry as a level two offender. The 54-year-old is required to tell authorities where he’s living.

Until our viewer’s tip, they had no idea he had moved to Florida.

“I know in my unit, we consider these individuals very seriously,” said Jarrett Woodfork, Onondaga County DA Special Victims Bureau Chief. “If an individual is expected to update their address because of the sex offenses that they’ve been convicted of and they’ve declined to do so, that’s a person we want to keep an eye on, that’s a person, we want to know where they are.”

Which is why, when brought back to Syracuse, the DA’s office asked, and City Court Arraignment Judge Erica Clarke agreed to set bail for Velez, to keep him jailed while the case winds through court. At his next court appearance, a preliminary hearing, Velez was set free with City Court Judge Maryanne Doherty, noting Velez a level two, not the more dangerous level three offender.

We disagree, that it doesn’t matter if he’s a one, two or three that these charges allow for bail to be set on a defendant, but ultimately the judge disagreed and released the defendant,” Woodfork said.

She’s technically right. A section of the bail reform law spells it out that bail can only be set for failing to register as a level three sex offender.

But what is the issue of a flight risk? He left town? Wasn’t there concern about that?

“Of course,” said Woodfork, “and that was the main reasons we requested bail at his arraignment, and I think ultimately that was one of the main reasons why the city court judge who handled the arraignment set bail as well.”

Under bail reform laws, a level two sex offender failing to register, like Velez, is a non-bailable offense.

“So ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference if the person traveled to Alaska, to evade prosecution, as long as the offense is a non-bailable offense,” he said.

The DA’s office pointing to this case, as another in a long list of reasons why changes in the law are needed.

But we’re still going to ask for bail, because we believe it’s right,” he said.

Even if a judge following the law, can’t agree.

NewsChannel 9 reached out to City Court Judge Doherty and got a response from the State’s Public Information Director for Unified Courts:

A Judge has wide discretion as to whether to remand, set bail, release the defendant to supervision or on their own recognizance. Judges also interpret the law.

In this case, in the Judge’s interpretation, the defendant is charged with a crime that does not meet the bar as a bailable offense. Only Failure to Register as a Level 3 Sex Offender is considered an offense eligible for bail. 

The Judge heard arguments, on the record, from both the prosecution and defense and subsequently decided that RoR was both the legal and appropriate determination to ensure the defendant’s return to court.

Also, a Judge changing a defendant’s bail status from a previous court appearance is not an uncommon occurrence.”

But what about a level two, flight risk?  

“Level 2 is not bail eligible.” 

Lucian Chaflen says the judge made the right call, that only failure to register as a level three sex offender is considered an offense eligible for bail.

 

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