BERGENFIELD, N.J. – A local judge on Tuesday freed a father and son charged with denying their 84-year-old mother/grandmother necessities and selling her valuables.
Vance Willard, 61, and his son, Stephen Willard, 25, were released from the Bergen County Jail under New Jersey's 2017 Bail Reform and Speedy Trial Act, jail records show.
The pair had been arrested and placed in the county lockup the day before.
Daily Voice has reported several incidents involving such defendants since the new law -- enacted by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Christie -- forced judges in New Jersey to begin using a "risk assessment tool."
The formula must be applied to determine whether defendants go free or remain jailed without bail based on the possibility that they:
- will skip court;
- pose a danger to the community;
- try to intimidate witnesses or victims.
Other considerations include how old the offender is, whether the crime was violent and whether he/she has past convictions and/or other pending charges.
"High-risk" offenders are detained. The rest are released with conditions or supervision -- which police and prosecutors say many have ignored.
Civil liberties advocates say the new system makes the system fairer: Under the old money bail system, they say, dangerous criminals can buy their way out of jail while poor, lower-risk defendants who can't afford freedom remain behind bars.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors say it's allowed too many repeat offenders to go free -- and in some cases become more violent.
The elder abuse case began with the July 5 burglary of a Willow Street home, Bergenfield police said.
The 58-year-old victim told responding officers that she’d returned from work to find rear window broken, Capt. Mustafa Rabboh said.
They traced a blood trail from the sill to an open garage in the rear yard of a home shared by the Willards.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification collected evidence, and police the next day interviewed the father and son, the captain said.
Both stole cash and jewelry during the break-in, he said.
Vance Willard at first was released pending a court hearing on charges of burglary, hindering apprehension and obstructing a government function, Rabboh said.
Stephen Willard was temporarily held in the county before a judge ordered him released -- pending court action on charges of burglary, theft and criminal mischief -- under the bail reform law.
While continuing their investigation, police learned that Vance and Stephen Willard “were engaged in activities [that] victimized their 84 year old elderly mother/grandmother, by failing to provide and withhold certain necessities and removing and selling items from her residence.”
They rearrested the pair, who were placed in the jail before a judge freed them.
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