“The absurdity of this defendant’s risk assessment speaks volumes about what is wrong with the criminal justice system in the City of New Orleans,” Cannizzaro said.
Author: Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness Investigator
Published: 4:55 PM CDT June 18, 2019
Updated: 6:51 PM CDT June 18, 2019
NEW ORLEANS — The two suspects arrested in Monday’s police shootout during the early morning robbery of a CVS pharmacy Uptown had their bail amounts set at more than $1 million each, overriding the court’s own assessment that rated them as the lowest possible risk.
Richard Sansbury, 26, had his bail set at $1.15 million by Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell Tuesday morning. Alan Parson, 18, had his bail set at $1.7 million by Commissioner Albert Thibodeaux in the afternoon.
In both cases, the district attorney’s office blasted the court’s risk assessment of 1 on a 1-to-5 scale, a measure that suggests a pre-trial release without supervision.
At both bail settings, Assistant District Attorney Michael Henn objected, calling the assessments “unconscionable.” The assessment matrix considers factors such as nature of the offense, prior criminal history and previous no-shows to court appearances.
“The absurdity of this defendant’s risk assessment speaks volumes about what is wrong with the criminal justice system in the City of New Orleans,” District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said in a statement. “Here we have a violent offender who attempted to rob a business and two employees at gunpoint, opened fire upon three police officers who responded – striking and injuring one of them – and comes to our city from Indianapolis, which should establish a risk of flight.”
Federal authorities believe the two suspects to be part of an organized robbery ring that has been hitting pharmacies across the country. Records show that Sansbury and Parson are from Indiana.
The risk assessment tool used by Orleans Criminal Court was adopted last year amid reform efforts to lower the city’s incarceration rate by lowering bail amounts of finding alternatives to pre-trial detention.
“Some city and outside foundation officials have been frustrated by my refusal to embrace this risk assessment tool and its high-profile role in reducing jail population,” Cannizzaro said. “But results such as this show this program’s complete disregard for the public safety needs of our community. A case such as this shows exactly why the skepticism of police and prosecutors is both warranted and deserved.”
Other critics have pushed back against some of the bail reforms as a public safety risk.
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the non-profit Metropolitan Crime Commission, has warned against taking bail reform measures too far. He criticized the court’s risk assessment process as fundamentally flawed.
“If they’re going to rate an offender like this as a risk level 1 on a 5 scale, something is wrong with the instrument,” Goyeneche said. “He was rated a 1 on a 5 scale, meaning that if he’s released, he doesn’t have to be supervised. Now that’s the alarming news.”
In the cases of Stansbury and Parson, even the court’s own magistrates overrode the assessment scores, citing the defendants’ “danger to the community” and “flight risk.”
Both suspects were brought to court Tuesday after being treated for gunshot wounds suffered during a shootout with officers who responded to the robbery.
A police officer who suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder also was hospitalized. He is reported to be in stable condition.