Former Ramsey County attorney says setting bail isn’t always as simple as it seems

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A decision by a Ramsey County judge to vastly reduce the bail for a man charged with shooting at police sparked outrage among law enforcement leaders.

But a former county attorney says the bail amount doesn’t always match the perceived severity of the crime.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi charged 30-year-old Pablo Jaimes with four counts of using deadly force against law enforcement officers after investigators said Jaimes fired at least nine rounds at officers June 4 during a high-speed that ended in White Bear Lake.

No one was injured in the incident, and Jaimes was arrested and booked into the Ramsey County Jail.

Prosecutors sought a $5 million bail, but during his first court appearance, Ramsey County Judge Kellie Charles set bail for Jaimes at $100,000. That figure drew sharp criticism from law enforcement, including Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

The sheriff told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it was the worst judicial decision he’s seen in over 40 years of law enforcement experience.

“It’s bad enough when politicians don’t value the lives of officers, but when the judges head down that path we’re in a bad state,” Fletcher said.

In a written statement, Choi said his office objected to what he called an “unusually low” bail amount.

Susan Gaertner, who served as Ramsey County Attorney for 16 years, said setting bail amounts is an involved process in which judges are not supposed to use the bail amount as a punitive measure.

“Bail is not about, ‘Oh my goodness, these charges are serious and we need to keep that person in jail so that person doesn’t commit any more crimes,’” Gaertner said.

She explained that preventive detention is unconstitutional.

“The purpose of bail is simple, and that is to make sure that the defendant appears in court as the case progresses,” Gaertner said.

Judges will receive background reports on suspects before they set bail, and most of that information has to stay private under state law, Gaertner said, because the suspect has not been convicted and the information oftentimes is personal.

According to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Jaimes was still in jail as of Monday night and has not posted bail.

A spokesperson for the state courts said judges are not allowed under state law to comment on cases they’re presiding over.