WAUKESHA, Wis. — An embattled democratic Milwaukee district attorney called Waukesha suspect Darrell Brooks’ $1,000 bail in a prior domestic violence case “inappropriately low.” But court records suggest that defendants are routinely sprung on small sums for serious felonies – including an alleged serial bank robber.
Former Waukesha prosecutor Tom Grieve told Fox News Digital that Milwaukee has the most lenient bail in all of Wisconsin — and that Brooks’ release for allegedly running over his ex-girlfriend five days before he plowed the same car into holiday revelers Nov. 21 was the norm.
The attorney representing darrell Brooks Jr. in several other felony cases in Milwaukee County has moved to withdraw from the case, citing new conflicts of interest that arose after his client allegedly mowed down a Christmas parade in nearby Waukesha. (Mark Hoffman/Pool via REUTERS) (REUTERS)
“It’s standard for Milwaukee,” said Grieve, who now heads the state’s largest criminal defense firm. “This is not bail you would be getting in Waukesha County, that’s for sure.”
DA John Chisholm launched an internal investigation into a junior prosecutor’s decision to request the low bail for Brooks, 39, who has a 50-page rap sheet spanning three states, after critics called for his removal over the debacle. The career criminal was out on $500 bail at the time for shooting at two people in another felony case.
Commissioner Cedric Cornwall, who signed off on the sum, has been reassigned and will no longer handle criminal matters, Chief Circuit Judge Mary Triggiano said at a press conference, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Cornwall had the discretion to review Brooks’ history and not simply green-light the prosecutor’s recommendation, Triggiano said.
Milwaukee County District Attorney JOHN T. CHISHOLM (https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/District-Attorney/Administration)
A review of three recent cases suggests that the bail decision for Brooks, who is accused of killing six and injuring 62 when he rammed his SUV into an annual Christmas parade, wasn’t unique.
Cops busted Omarion Jones, 18, on Sept. 23 after they pulled over the Chevy Trailblazer he was riding in 15 minutes after it was used as the getaway car in a bank heist at Prime Financial Credit Union.
Police had previously placed a GPS tracking device on the vehicle as part of an investigation into the Trailblazer and Jones’ connection to a series of bank robberies and a shooting.
Milwaukee serial bank robbery suspect Omarion Jones’ who was released on $1,000 bail. (Courtesy of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office)
Jones, seated in the rear passenger seat, was one of four occupants. Police recovered a demand note in the seat back pocket in front of him and stolen money from the bank, court records show.
But Jones was only arrested on a single count of misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon and released on a $500 signature bond in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. He didn’t actually have to post the money — but simply signed a piece of paper agreeing to pay the sum if he violated the terms of his release. This is standard practice for most misdemeanors. He was freed on Sept. 28.
Milwaukee prosecutors upgraded the charges in a new complaint Oct. 8 to two counts of robbery of a financial institution and one count of carrying a concealed weapon for the Prime Financial Credit Union hit.
Milwaukee Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall in a campaign photo from his failed 2014 run for a judge seat. (Cornwall for Circuit Court Judge)
He wasn’t picked up until Nov. 10 when cops spotted him in the passenger seat of a Subaru Forrester that was reportedly stolen two days earlier during an armed robbery. Commissioner Grace Flynn set bail at $1,000 for the bank robbery, and he was back on the street Nov. 17.
The next day prosecutors dropped another pair of complaints against Jones, alleging that he and his crew were behind a violent crime spree in Milwaukee — including two other bank heists and a shooting that left two injured. But he wasn’t apprehended on the cases for nearly two weeks.
Five adult victims killed in the Waukesha parade attack. A sixth victim, this one a child, was announced in court Tuesday.
Jones and another man allegedly ambushed the owner of PK Pantry and another staffer on Sept. 6, opening fire and wounding both men, according to the complaint.
Court papers also charge Jones and another suspect with a Sept. 15 robbery of Wells Fargo. Jones allegedly slipped the teller a note that read, “Do as I say or everyone will die, give me all the cash in the drawer, no marked bills, I have a bomb.” Five days later, Jones struck again at Educator’s Credit Union.
Bail on the two new cases was set at $30,000 cash, court records show. “I doubt he’s getting out of jail but if this were another county, the bail would have been higher,” Grieve told Fox News. “Sometimes our ideals need to be tempered with experience.”
Cash bail is used to ensure a defendant appears in court, but a judge can also consider danger to the community under Wisconsin law, said John Gross, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School.
He pointed to a national study on bail reform published in the Texas Law Review to show that lower bails do not put the community at increased risk. The study says of all released felony defendants, only 16% are rearrested for any reason, 11% for a felony and only 1.9% for a violent crime.
Milwaukee native, Danielle Allen, 34, was one of those repeat offenders. She was sprung on $1,000 bail on charges of felony physical abuse of a child for allegedly attacking her teen son Nov. 1. The mom, who has at least four prior arrests, allegedly punched her son then bit him twice “causing significant and deep injuries,” the complaint says.
Photo included in Jackson Sparks’ obituary shows the 8 year old wearing a Waukesha Sparks baseball jersey. (Photo provided)
When officers tried to take her into custody, she locked herself in her house for five and a half hours, allegedly threatening to harm police and herself with a knife.
She was out on bail at the time for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for fleeing cops on June 28, allegedly leading them on a high-speed chase for eight miles. When she finally stepped out of her car, she allegedly pointed the loaded .38 pistol at her own head before cops wrangled the weapon from her.
In another case, Edward Black Jr., 37, was freed on $1,000 cash bail on felony strangulation and bail jumping raps for allegedly choking his spouse Nov. 14 in front of their two children.
Police tape cordons off a street in Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade hitting multiple people Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. ((AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps))
He was angry she was talking to another man on Facebook and allegedly squeezed her neck until she lost consciousness as their daughter and son tried to stop him. Black was already out on a $500 signature bond — for which he didn’t have to post any cash — for allegedly attacking the same woman.
The MacIver Institute for Public Policy, a Wisconsin-based conservative think tank, highlighted Milwaukee’s low bails in a 2019 report. Bail was set in a first degree sexual assault of a child case at $750, for a hit-and-run causing great bodily harm $500 and for first degree homicide $100,000.
Violent crime in Milwaukee has soared in recent years. Homicides were up 95% in 2020 compared to 2019 and aggravated assaults spiked 26% over the same period, according to public records.
The Milwaukee DA, who took office in 2007, said in an interview that same year that his office’s push for bail reform could have collateral damage.
“Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into a treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody?” he reportedly told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”
The Milwaukee DA, a spokesman for the chief judge and Cornwall didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The balance is how do you protect the community while also protecting the innocence of the defendant. Bail is not supposed to be punitive,” said Grieve. “The problem is how do you know who is going to be the next Darrell Brooks.”
Brooks is facing six counts of intentional homicide and other charges for the Christmas parade carnage and is being held in lieu of $5 million bond.