SAN FRANCISCO—U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered the release of James Reem, a San Francisco transient, who has been in jail for the last seven and a half months on burglary and theft charges to be freed for after he was unable to afford the $330,000 bail while awaiting trail on Monday, March 12. Reem was arrested and charged in July 2017 for burglary and auto theft. Reem’s public defender requested his release in a bail motion on August 14, 2017, which was denied.
Breyer issued his decision citing that Reem was not given a constitutionally adequate bail hearing when his bail was set. He asserted that the high bail was equivalent to pretrial internment, which was inappropriate and pretrial detention should only occur when the proposed evidence in a case meets “minimum standard of reliability.”
“Since holding that Reem’s initial detention hearing in state court was unconstitutional, this Court has granted the Superior Court two additional opportunities to articulate a constitutional basis for detaining Reem pending trial. Both times, the Superior Court failed to do so. Accordingly, this Court orders Reem’s release,” Breyer noted in his decision.
Though the bail amount was questioned back in December 2017, Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong upheld the amount arguing that Reem was a flight risk after missing two prior court appearances. The federal judge found Wong’s order violated the constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because Reem would have gone free based solely on wealth had he been able to obtain bail money.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s office pushed back against Judge Wong’s decision, claiming that the defendant was physically unable to appear in court because he was being held in a separate jail that would not permit his travel.
“Unfortunately, San Francisco judges just aren’t getting that they are violating our clients’ rights by failing to meet minimum federal constitutional requirements in bail hearings. The fact that a single case had to be appealed three times and a federal judge had to intervene each of those times to stop a local judge from violating the constitution is a disgrace,” Adachi said in a public statement.
Reem was released from jail on Tuesday, March 13.
Written By Seymone Khaleghi and Donald Roberts