The COVID-19 pandemic continues to provide heart-breaking stories of government decisions gone bad. In Virginia, a 33-year-old man, Ibrahim Bouaichi, charged last October with raping a 31-year-old woman he reportedly had been in a relationship with, was released from jail in April pending his trial due to concerns over the spread of the disease at the jail where he was being held.
Bouaichi, who was supposed to stay at home except to meet with his lawyers or appear in court, instead sought out his accuser, Karla Dominguez, and shot and killed her outside her Alexandria apartment on July 29. When police caught up to him, he killed himself.
Bouaichi ordinarily would have stayed in jail until his trial on the five felony counts stemming from the violent events of last October, but his attorneys filed a motion asking for him to be released on bond. They argued that visitation at the Alexandria jail where he was being held was curtailed because of COVID-19, and that they needed to be able to meet with him to prepare his defense. At the time, the jail had experienced no reported cases of COVID-19.
The judge granted the motion over the objections of prosecutors and released Bouachi on a $25,000 bond but did not require him to wear an ankle monitor. He was soon arrested in a different county after a drunken incident at a fast-food restaurant where he rammed a police car, but somehow the police and prosecutors in Alexandria were never informed of that arrest. If they had known of it, prosecutors would have obtained the revocation of his bond and Bouachi would have been back in jail and unable to commit murder.
Many states are reducing jail and prison populations due to COVID-19 concerns. California is estimated to be releasing over 17,000 inmates prior to the official end of their prison terms. Nationwide, the prison population dropped from 1.3 million to 1.2 million between March and June, due to what experts say are “prohibitions stopping new prisoners from being accepted from local jails, parole officers sending fewer people back to prison for low-level violations, and court closures due to coronavirus leading to fewer people being sentenced.”
The sad irony here is that due to the misguided attempt to save prisoners from potentially contracting a disease, a young woman was murdered. The Bouachi case is an object lesson in poor policy decisions resulting from overblown COVID-19 fears.
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