KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
April 22, 2020
By Katy Magazine Editors
The overpopulated Harris County jails and the potential spread of the coronavirus have led some judges to release violent criminals out on low bonds. In some cases, Katy criminals have been caught violating bond terms with no consequences. Releasing these criminals causes concern as authorities recognize National Crime Victims Week and the unwilling participants in a seemingly troubled system.
Harris County Judges Release Known Violent Offenders
Harris County judges continue to release violent criminals. The concern over a major coronavirus outbreak within the jail system is taking an already known issue and spreading it.
An overpopulated jail system within Harris County echoes a similar issue seen in the late 80s and early 90s.
“This isn’t anything new,” says Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers Houston. But COVID-19 has given the system a reason to get these offenders out of jail.”
Kahan spends his days looking into specific cases. He focuses not on first-time offenders but rather those charged with new violent crimes who also have had a history with violent crimes. While there are a large amount of these cases, Kahan is very concerned over two Katy cases that now have violent criminals back on our streets. One offender was charged last year with the murder of a young Katy father.
Katy Felons Charged of Violent Crimes, Even Murder Are Out
On February 9, 2019 Dietrich Thomas shot and killed a 29-year-old Katy father of two in a road rage incident off of Morton Ranch Rd.
At the time of his initial hearing, Thomas was denied bond because he was out on bond for a previously charged violent crime.
Thomas was released on a low bond this January, issued from Judge Jason Luong, the Harris County 185th District Court Judge. Records show that since his release out on bond Thomas has violated his conditions multiple times.
Kahan shares that another known Katy criminal is out on a low bond issued by the 180th Court Judge DaSean Jones. Katy’s Robert Mendiola of Cypress Meadows was released out on bond after he was charged with felony in possession of a firearm and a DWI. Mandala previously served eight years in jail for an aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
Setting low bonds presents a dangerous situation for local neighborhoods.
“It goes back to the economic theory of risk vs. reward,” says Kahan. “And right now, criminals getting off on a low bond is very likely.”
A Concern for Victims
This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Putting known violent offenders back on Katy and Harris County streets could increase the risk of more like crimes. But what about the victims?
Photo credit: Andy Kahan
“I can’t think of a more appropriate time for this topic to be at the forefront because the victims have been punted out of the field,” says Kahan. “Is anyone concerned of the victim’s families?”
In June 2018, Crime Stoppers of Houston became the first organization of its kind to enact a victim services/advocacy program. One of their main objectives is to ensure victims and survivors have a voice in the criminal justice system.
Free Service Offered to Victims
“We are all going through emotional turmoil,” says Kahan. “Now imagine that you are a victim and you learn that the criminal who victimized you has now been released because of the coronavirus.”
Kahan suggests victims register themselves with VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) to ensure that they will be notified if their offenders will be released. VINE is a free service open to the public, and available in English and Spanish.
Law Enforcement Express Concern
Releasing known violent offenders concerns local law enforcement agencies. Constable Ted Heap of Harris County Precinct 5 recently addressed this concern on the official Facebook page.
Precinct 5 and our friends from all Houston area law enforcement agencies are doing our best to keep you and your families safe during this difficult time. We have kept our patrols at our pre-virus levels and our deputies have stepped up by keeping as vigilant a watch as ever over your homes and businesses.
But we need the magistrates and district judges to STOP giving violent criminals ridiculous low or no bonds. Too many criminals with violent histories are being turned loose after we put them in jail. That makes our job harder and puts our friends and neighbors at greater risk.
How Does this End?
In the late 80s and early 90s, the Harris County Jail system faced similar crowding issues and the practice of these low bonds became an issue.
“After enough public outrage Harris County expanded its jail system,” says Kahan.
Kahan worries that violent acts will continue to occur from known criminals who are out on low bonds unless judges stop issuing such bonds. Until that happens, it could be up to groups such as Crime Stoppers Houston to continue to educate the public of this ongoing problem.
Katy Magazine reached out to both the 180th and 185th Harris County District Judges. Both have a history of issuing low bonds. At the time of publication, neither judge’s office has responded.