Hampden County officials pushing for bail reform bill to be passed

I-Team

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s a story the 22News I-Team has been covering for years. Hampden County officials are fighting once again for bail reform in Massachusetts.

“It makes these criminals more bold,” explained Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood. “I mean, they really have nothing to fear.”

On July 31, 2020, Giani Morales of Springfield was arrested and charged with armed robbery and assault & battery.

According to court documents, Morales was released on a $250 bail with the condition of an overnight curfew. While out on bail last month, Morales was arrested again. This time for allegedly breaking into 74-year old woman’s apartment in Connecticut and raping her.

“Giani Morales should not have been out there to commit that horrendous crime. He should be in jail.”

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood

Morales pled not guilty to all charges against him.

“They have no respect for life, and when they have no respect for life, that means somebody’s going to get hurt or killed,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who has been fighting for bail reform for years now, told the I-Team. He has worked with State Representative Angelo Puppolo to re-file legislation that would give prosecutors the right to appeal a low bail, similar to how defendants can appeal a high bail.

“It’s still a judge’s decision,” Puppolo explained. “But, it goes along the line of, defendants have a right to appeal an excessively high bail. I believe the Commonwealth should have the ability to appeal excessively low bail.”

Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni supports this bail reform legislation.

“Judges make the most earnest and best decisions that they possibly can, but sometimes we disagree and we think the community disagrees, especially when it comes to a matter of public safety,” Gulluni said.

However, some opponents of this bail reform bill fear that it could give prosecutors too much power in the courtroom.

“The prosecution already has the weight of the state. It has a police arm. It has so many valuable tools working for it, a budget and everything else,” criminal defense lawyer Joseph Pacella told the 22News I-Team. “This is akin to allowing prosecutors to appeal not guilty verdicts.”

He told the I-Team this bail reform bill would keep defendants in jail when they really shouldn’t be.

“You’re doing the time before anyone can prove you did the crime.”

Joseph Pacella, Criminal Defense Lawyer

D.A. Gulluni explained that the prosecution would only have 24 hours to appeal the judge’s decision.

“This cannot come down the line by a month, two weeks, sort of catching the defendant off guard when he or she is released. This has a very limited window in which the prosecution can file,” he explained. “We’re very careful not to infringe of defendant’s rights, to make this really as precise as possible used only in those situations where there is a real concern for public safety.”

According to Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice David Lowy, courts do not use bail as a form of punishment, but instead, as a way to ensure the defendant will show up for their next court date. The judge also has to consider the defendant’s financial resources when setting bail.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi wants to add to that to further improve the system.

“We should institute another piece of that, which is not only can they make the bail, not only do they have the intentions of coming back in front of the court, but also, what is their past, what is the likelihood that they go back to the community and hurt somebody?” Sheriff Cocchi explained.

This leads back to Morales. His bail in District Court was originally set at $500. He appealed that and won because he was not able to pay. He was able to post the $250 bail that was set by a Superior Court judge.

Commissioner Clapprood told the I-Team she fears the crime rate will go up if bail reform isn’t passed.

“I don’t want to see an officer get hurt, and I don’t want to see another person in our community be victimized by somebody who should be incarcerated,” Clapprood said.

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