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Boulder County DA Says Judges Are Putting Public Safety At Risk By Releasing Dangerous Defendants On PR Bonds

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The Boulder County District Attorney is speaking out over what he calls the reckless and haphazard release of high risk offenders from court. An investigation by CBS4's Shaun Boyd last month found judges in Denver County Court have released thousands of people charged with violent felonies on low or no bond.

Boyd has now learned Denver isn't alone.

Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty says Boulder District Court judges are also releasing a growing number of dangerous defendants, in many cases, without any bond. Last month, police say one of those individuals went on to kill someone.

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Brian Murray (credit: Louisville Police)

Brian Murray is charged with first degree murder in the death of Stu Hoebel. Investigators say Hoebel was covered in blood when they found him in the basement of his Denver home. An autopsy revealed he'd been beaten and strangled to death. Surveillance video, police say, identified Murray as the killer.

He had been released from Boulder County court on a zero dollar bond just two days before the murder. Louisville police arrested him after they say he made repeated 911 calls, claiming to have a gun and threatening to hurt officers and make them shoot him.

The Boulder DA's Office argued for a $25,000 cash-only bond for Murray, noting he had a long, violent criminal history. The judge let him out on a zero dollar personal recognizance bond.

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CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Michael Dougherty. (credit: CBS)

"I'm not looking to throw stones or to talk about individual cases," Dougherty said. While he wouldn't discuss Murray's case specifically, he says, a troubling pattern has emerged in Boulder County Court over the last couple years.

In an effort to keep the jail population down during COVID, he says, judges are issuing more PR bonds, not only to low level offenders, but high risk defendants.

"My greatest concern is when those individuals present a clear risk or danger to other community members," Dougherty said.

Murray's case is one of several examples in the last month alone. Police suspect Savuth and Yulisa Yin in the death and cover-up of a Longmont real estate broker. They're charged with stealing $3 million in property from him. They were let out on $500 cash bonds each, even after prosecutors presented evidence that they planned to leave the country.

Adrian Rocha Chairez is charged with 31 felony counts including racketeering. Police say he headed up an organized crime ring responsible for more than a million dollars in damaged property and stolen cars and bikes. He was indicted in Denver, where a judge set bond at $500,000.

A Boulder judge knocked it down to $10,000. He walked out even after prosecutors noted he had weapons and ties to Mexico.

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(credit: CBS)

Dougherty filed motions asking the judges to reconsider their decisions.

"We cannot afford to release people in a reckless and haphazard manner that endangers the community."
He says judges are also giving PR bonds to defendants they know aren't likely to reappear.

"People, for example, with ten failures to appear like the person we had in court yesterday. Those individuals should not have ten failures to appear and then be released on PR bond."

Dougherty admits the system isn't perfect, and he's led reforms including holding training for prosecutors on when bond is appropriate and when it's not, and tracking those being held on low bonds to make sure no one is jailed simply for being poor.

He even has a committee that meets every month to look at bond and re-offense rates. He says reform can't come at the expense of public safety.

"The community will turn against criminal justice reform, and we will lose the momentum for the great work that's been done throughout the state of Colorado and here in Boulder if we sacrifice community safety in the rush to engage in bond reform."

Dougherty says in addition to bond reform, the state needs to invest in more mental health treatment. People with mental illness, he says, don't belong in jail, but for those who are a danger, he says, there is often no other option because Colorado has less access to treatment than almost every state in the country.

Boulder County's District Court Chief Judge declined to comment for this story.

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