Calling on the courts to stop a career criminal
Fulton residents want to know why the justice system can’t keep a repeat offender off the streets
Frustrated by a career criminal that has struck several times in their neighborhood, Fulton residents are fighting back.
But instead of going after the offender, they’re taking to task the criminal justice system and the presiding judges they say have repeatedly put him back on the streets.
The Fulton Neighborhood Association Safety Committee plans to publicize the outcome of the offender’s cases — including the names of presiding judges — to residents and area business owners. It also considered taking out an advertisement in local newspapers.
“What I see is a system that fails the community often when dealing with repeat offenders and that the consequences are not enough to deter the behavior and, in effect, become an incentive because [criminals] know they can get away with it,” said Dave Delvoye, chair of the Fulton Neighborhood Association Safety Committee.
Since June 2006, Sanders Moore Jr., 47, has been arrested in the Fulton neighborhood for three felonies, including two for burglary and one for receiving stolen property, along with a dizzying array of misdemeanor charges. Moore has a criminal history stretching back to the 1970s, but each time he’s been arrested in the last year, he has been released without bail.
Delvoye has been following the Moore case since 2006, updating the community with safety bulletins and issuing community impact statements to the county prosecutor. In the community impact statement issued last March, Delvoye wrote that the community is concerned that it has become the target of a career burglar.
“In light of Mr. Moore’s criminal history (over 50 arrests in Minneapolis alone), prison record and pending cases, we cannot comprehend why the court has repeatedly released Mr. Moore with no bail required following his recent felony arrest and then repeatedly agreed to postpone his court appearances,” Delvoye wrote, recommending that the court take a firmer stance in handling Moore.
Moore appeared before Judge Janet Poston on March 26 on charges of third-degree burglary. Then-County Attorney Pete Cahill argued that Moore should be held on $10,000 bail or restricted from the Fulton neighborhood if conditionally released. Judge Poston agreed, but on April 2 Judge Robert Blaeser reversed her decision. He released Moore without bail or any geographic restrictions.
Moore was then arrested on June 13 for giving false information to police but was released again the next day without bail by Judge Richard Scherer. His next court date was set for July 20, but before it could be heard, Moore was arrested again on June 30 for first-degree burglary. Moore now has eight cases pending.
“On June 30, another homeowner was victimized because Mr. Moore had the opportunity to commit those crimes,” Delvoye said. “This crime would have been prevented if the two previous judges had made a different decision and decided to hold him on bail and resolve all the cases.”
At a meeting of the Fulton Neighborhood Safety Committee, resident Theresa Punyko said that she’s worried that crime is rising in Southwest this summer.
“There’s an emotional aspect,” she said of the Sanders Moore case. “People start getting apprehensive. I think it affects the attitude of future criminals, too, because any associates or young people [Moore is] involved with will see he’s getting away [with committing crimes].”
Maurice Duffy, another Fulton resident, agreed.
“How many people does he know that he’s been talking to all this time, saying ‘Hey, don’t worry about it, kids, I’ve been arrested half-a-dozen times?’” Duffy said.
Resident Bob Kruta said he’s also alarmed by the growing list of reported crimes.
“The report on burglaries goes on page after page, and my concern is if they don’t pay any attention to Mr. Moore, how about these people?” he asked.
John Finlayson, chair of the Fulton Neighborhood Association Board, said he feels the problem is systemic.
“Part of it’s the judges and part of it’s the prosecution at the county level because these [suspects] never get the same prosecutor and they never get the same judge,” he said. “Each time they appear, it’s like it’s fresh. Nobody has their whole history before them; nobody has knowledge of what they’ve done.”
While the judges involved in Moore’s cases were not able to comment because the cases are still pending, Lucy Wieland, chief judge of Hennepin County’s 4th Judicial District, explained why the court has taken certain actions in Moore’s cases.
“The reason [Moore] got out without bail was because he was on a relatively low-level felony case,” she said.
Moore’s case was heard in front of the property and drug court, which Wieland said hears between 3,500 and 4,000 cases each year. Because of the high volume, she said, there aren’t enough probationary resources to do a bail evaluation on each person. Bail evaluations are conducted to examine a suspect’s criminal record and the likelihood that they will commit more crimes if released. They are usually conducted when the person is charged with more serious felonies like assault and driving while intoxicated. Judges use them to set bail or other conditions such as no drugs or alcohol or certain geographic restrictions.
Because the crimes Moore has been charged with were less severe, he never had a bail evaluation conducted, and judges didn’t know his extensive criminal background. After being charged with committing first-degree burglary, Moore finally had a bail evaluation and is now held on $38,000 bail.
“We are in the process of redoing our entire bail evaluation scoring system and the issue of conditional release and how it gets used,” Wieland said. “It’s an issue of probationary resources because it is pretty time-consuming to do a bail evaluation for everybody.”
Wieland admits that the results are not always perfect, but in a legal system wherein people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, she said pretrial release is sometimes unavoidable.
“I understand that people are upset about [Moore’s releases] … but we probably make thousands and thousands of these kinds of release decisions, and you hope you get it right, but you don’t always get it right,” she said.
Wieland said that a new statewide database started several weeks ago will make it easier for prosecutors and judges to access information about criminal backgrounds without having to conduct resource-intensive bail evaluations in every situation, which could mean that fewer cases like Moore’s slip through the cracks.
While the level of crime remains low in the Fulton area compared with the rest of Minneapolis, residents are still hoping that Moore’s case doesn’t become a trend.
“It doesn’t take very many people to disrupt an entire area and cause a great deal of concern,” Finlayson said. “And a failure to deal with people like this disrupts the quality of life.”