Politics or process? Deters escalates spat with new judges over bonds

CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is calling out his second elected judge in as many months for a bond decision.

In May, Deters set his sights on Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Branch. Now it’s her counterpart’s turn, Common Pleas Judge Alison Hatheway.

“We are dealing,” said Deters, “with a culture war.”

This skirmish, according to the county’s top prosecutor, involves Idris Cockrell, charged in April 2020 for allegedly firing a gun into a home.

In November 2020, while out on bond, Cockrell was arrested and charged again for having a gun in a car, according to court documents. That’s another felony because he was already facing charges.

Cockrell was given an ankle monitor and bonded out again.

That’s when Hatheway took over the case following her election.

Cockrell’s attorney petitioned Hatheway in June to get rid of Cockrell’s ankle monitor. The prosecutor’s office disagreed and wanted his bond increased. They used photos they claimed showed Cockrell posing on social media with guns and marijuana, in violation of his bond conditions.

“When this is brought to this judge’s attention, these pictures, her response was not, ‘Don’t carry guns, don’t sell drugs,’” said Deters. “It’s, ‘Stay off Facebook.’”

Bill Gallager is an attorney who sits on the Bail Reform Commission.

“I don’t know when exactly those pictures were taken. That’s one,” he said. “The other is, we see that sort of thing all the time. Pictures don’t always tell the whole story.”

Hatheway decided to keep Cockrell’s bond and ankle monitor but increase the amount of time each day he could be out and about.

Gallager says the Bail Reform Commission has collected data from this past year on accused felons out on bond.

“Ninety-five percent have come to court, haven’t skipped court dates, cases have been resolved,” Gallager said, “whether it was a guilty plea, guilty finding or, in a lot of cases, dismissal.”

Gallager says Deters is cherry-picking cases for other reasons. It’s more about politics than process, Gallager argues, because if it were about process, the prosecutor could have appealed the bond decision.

Deters responds this isn’t a political game. “I have friends that are Democratic judges today over there that don’t do this,” he said.

Hatheway declined to comment, citing ethical guidelines preventing judges from speaking publicly about a case currently on their docket.

“[Deters] knows that Judge Hatheway, or other judges, can’t speak for themselves because they’re prevented to, and he’s a politician,” Gallager said. “I think he’s taking advantage of that situation.”

Deters countered Hatheway does have a forum to explain her decision, if not rebut his particular attacks.

“Have a bond hearing,” he said. “Get on the record. Invite everybody down. Bring your cameras down. Tell the people of Hamilton County why somebody like this is out of jail.”

United States Supreme Court President says judges are required to consider the least restrictive conditions of release to make sure that a defendant returns to court and to protect the public. Judges are also prohibited from setting high monetary bonds in an effort to prevent a defendant’s pre-trial release.

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