OPINION: Judge sets price too low on public safety
Last week The Outlook reported on a story involving an alleged rapist who was released from custody when Multnomah County Judge Kelly Skye reduced his bail, allowing him instead to await trial in the comfort of his parents' home in Gresham.
The public response since that time has been entirely one-sided — questioning how a judge could see clear to reduce bail on a man suspected of preying on two teenaged girls. Prosecutors have brought 24 charges against Travis Dick, 23, including second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse.
The bail was originally set at more than $4 million, but was reduced by 85 percent — down to about $600,000. Under the rules associated with bail, Travis Dick's parents needed to come up with 10 percent (or $60,000) to free their son from jail pending the outcome of his trial.
His release is conditional, requiring that he not leave home, that he submit to GPS tracking and that he have no access to weapons, controlled substances or have contact with his alleged victims.
It should not come as any surprise that Judge Skye has not offered an explanation for her decision to reduce the bail.
While common for defense attorneys, prosecutors and witnesses to comment on criminal trials, judges usually avoid the press. It's probably related to the principle of blind justice. (Do you remember that blindfolded lady holding the justice scales?) In other words, a judge who expresses opinions or provides explanation could find herself clenched in the jaws of the bias trap. So it's unlikely that we'll hear the judge provide justifications for reducing bail.
But two possible arguments might be that our justice system works on the premise that we're all innocent until proven guilty, and that courts would make it impossible for "Average Joe" to make bail when the amounts are set at astronomically large levels.
Still, the court of public opinion appears unswayed from in its opinion that Dick should be ensconced in the Multnomah County Jail.
"Judge Kelly Skye. Remember that name come election time," says one person on The Outlook's website. "I can't imagine any possible defense for setting this guy loose on the community, especially in the neighborhood where his victims live. But I'm open to hearing how Judge Skye rationalizes her decision to herself. I don't see that in the article."
And another says, "Should have raised the bail, not lowered it."
As for The Outlook, we are equally dismayed that an accused child rapist is out on bail. We share the public's opinion that $60,000 is too low of a price upon which to wager the public's safety. Actually, we wish bail had been denied.
But Judge Skye is not likely to reverse her decision, any more than she is likely to provided justification for lowering the bail.
Given the reality of the situation, we will hope the system works the way it is intended: that Dick will follow the rules of his pretrial release, and that everyone responsible for monitoring his behavior — from his parents to police to the court system — does their part to ensure public safety.
And on the assumption that Dick may one day be convicted of these crimes, we can hope he spends decades as a resident of the Oregon prison system.