(The Center Square) – A Pierce County court commissioner last month released a violent felony suspect on her own recognizance and who later failed to appear in court. It’s an outcome that’s drawn criticism from people in the community as well as threat assessment professionals.
According to court documents obtained by The Center Square, 27-year-old Yessica Meraz Carmona was arrested on Aug. 28 for vehicle theft, possessing a stolen vehicle, two counts of second degree assault and attempting to elude police after an undercover Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy allegedly spotted her driving a stolen vehicle.
She allegedly attempted to elude officers when pursued and attempted to steal another vehicle while being detained. When officers tried to remove her from the vehicle, she put the car in reverse and attempted to back it up with the officers wedged between the doors and the car, though none of the officers were seriously injured.
According to the prosecutor’s charging documents, one of the assault charges alleged Carmona “intentionally and unlawfully cause substantial bodily harm to an unborn quick child by intentionally and unlawfully inflicting any injury upon the mother of such child.”
The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office sought a $75,000 bail, but Carmona was released on her own recognizance by Pierce County Court Commissioner Barbara H. McInvaille. Court commissioners are appointed and handle legal cases, including civil, juvenile, civil mental health, adoptions and criminal.
As part of her release, Carmona was required to report for pretrial services within 24 hours. However, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office reported on Sept. 1 that she had failed to appear, and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.
A Facebook post on the Pierce County Sheriff’s page regarding the incident has received more than 1,200 comments and 223 shares, with many of the comments criticizing the decision for Carmona to be released.
One person responding to it wrote that “given that she was a violent offender (armed robbery and assault, it seems) was a tracker placed on her when she was released? If not, why not? And who should citizens contact to demand change? Was it a mix of city and state policies that led to such a seemingly relaxed attitude about a violent offender’s pre-trial confinement? There are clearly a number of systemic issues at work here — probably not just some cavalier judge.”
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office replied that “most of your questions would need to be directed to the court commissioner who set the conditions of release. She is employed by Pierce County Superior Court. Commissioners/judges consider the seriousness of the charges, criminal history, and flight risk when considering bail. The prosecutors requested $75,000 bail based on these factors. The commissioner elected to release her without bail. Yes, we do have to consider jail population sometimes, but not in this case. We will always find room for a defendant with these serious charges.”
In an email to The Center Square, Certified Threat Manager and former special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Sheldon Beddo wrote that “Pierce County citizens have a non-elected judiciary making these decisions, and they are paying a handsome salary for it. The Pretrial Services Public Safety Assessment does not honestly consider her behaviors outlined in the probable cause declaration and information. In short, the assessment considered only her past (we learn she failed to appear in court in another jurisdiction and has an active bench warrant) and not her recent malbehaviors.
“Recognizance is a promise or obligation to do something, such as keep the peace, behave, or appear. Neither Court Commissioner McInvaille nor the public safety assessment prioritized the safety of Pierce County citizens. Court Commissioner McInvaille is clearly not able to operate on her own recognizance.”