Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a conservative activist who also hosts a talk show, had his microphone cut off while testifying before California lawmakers during a recent hearing at the State Capitol. He was then threatened with removal after continuing to admonish proponents of Senate Bill 10, which would eliminate the current cash bail system for many defendants in the state.
“Senator (Robert) Hertzberg and the sponsors of this bill hate black people,” Peterson, who is African-American, asserted during his testimony last week. “They hate black women; they hate black children.”
Peterson was then interrupted by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, who instructed him to “stick with the merits of the bill.”
Speaking directly to Sen. Hertzberg, who co-authored the legislation, Peterson continued, claiming that the proposal would put many minority neighborhoods in peril.
“You, sir, don’t respect black people,” Peterson persisted. “You don’t live in those communities.”
At that point, the chairman shut off Peterson’s microphone and eventually threatened to have him ejected.
“If you make another sound, I’ll have you removed,” Jones-Sawyer warned.
Peterson has spent decades mentoring black people, many of whom live in areas that have become overpopulated by miscreants and gangs. According to Peterson, an alarming number of residents are already afraid to report crimes to law enforcement. They fear criminals will be released back onto the streets soon after being arrested, possibly seeking revenge — which could become an even greater threat if SB 10 becomes law.
“You can’t just read a book, article, or statistics and understand what is happening on the streets of our black and Hispanic neighborhoods,” Peterson wrote in an editorial after the committee voted to move the bill forward. “You need to live it and be around it to know the struggles are real.”
As the Sacramento Bee reports:
Proponents argue that the current framework of setting bail by crime and then releasing defendants who can post that rate discriminates against the poor, trapping many Californians in custody long before they have been convicted of anything. SB 10 would largely eliminate the use of money bail by having courts rely instead on assessments of an offender’s flight risk and danger to public safety. If deemed necessary, bail would be set based on their ability to pay.
It faces heavy opposition from commercial bail bond agents, law enforcement officers and prosecutors, who argue that monetary stakes are the most effective way to ensure someone shows up in court after being released. Eliminating bail, they say, would cause considerable harm to the public.
Many of the bill’s co-sponsors have direct ties to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2014, the ACLU received $50 million from Soros’ group to reduce the number of incarcerated people nationwide.
“At the end of the day, there will be a disagreement between law enforcement and the sponsors of this measure at certain fundamental levels, and that’s what makes government work,” Hertzberg said during the hearing.
However, New Jersey Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak (D) — a former advocate of bail reform — says a similar policy which has already been passed and implemented in his state isn’t working at all. In a letter to a top California Democrat, Andrzejczak called the change “an absolute disaster” while corroborating the concerns raised by Rev. Peterson.
As Assemblyman Andrzejczak wrote:
The reality is that dangerous and career criminals are released daily within hours of arrest. We should never have considered free bail to those who commit crimes where a citizen has been victimized. We may only catch a criminal once out of a multitude of crimes in which they commit. They are simply not afraid of committing crimes against citizens and as a result our crime rate has increased at least 13% since January. This law is victimizing law abiding citizens every day.
Joining Peterson in testifying against SB 10 were Elizabeth Ratinoff, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office; Ron Lawrence, California Police Chiefs Association; Patricia Wenskunas, Crime Survivors; and Randy Perry, Peace Officers Research Association of California.
Last month, opponents of the proposed legislation successfully stopped an identical bill that was moving through the Capitol. SB 10, which has already cleared the Senate, has been part of a two-bill strategy by California Democrats. The measure now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.