The NJWeedman is dead. Long live … NJRepealBailReformMan? (JEFF EDELSTEIN COLUMN)
By Jeff Edelstein, The Trentonian
Posted: 05/29/18, 1:58 PM EDT
The NJWeedman is dead. Long live the NJBailReformMan. Or the NJRepealBailReformMan. Or the NJEighthAmendmentMan.
Or something like that. You get the idea.
“The war on weed is won. It’s over,” Ed Forchion (formerly NJWeedman) told me yesterday. “The government hasn’t quite quit yet, and things still need to be tweaked, but it’s over. Now I have a new beef; I want to see bail reform repealed in New Jersey.”
Very short, very quick, very incomplete look at bail reform in New Jersey: Strange bedfellows, from former Gov. Chris Christie to the ACLU, worked together to pretty much end cash bail in the state. Only people deemed dangerous, based on a points system, would be held in jail prior to trial. All others would be released.
Seemed pretty good on the surface.
Except not so much, according to Forchion, who just spent 447 days in prison without the possibility of bail because he was deemed a “threat” to the informant who was set to testify against him in a marijuana case. (Not so BTW: Forchion was found not guilty of witness tampering last week.) (Also this: Forchion has a federal civil rights lawsuit winding its way through the courts right now, and when that’s all said and done, don’t be surprised if Forchion ends up with a large cash settlement.) (And there’s about 14.3 zillion other things Forchion has going on, from wanting to reopen his Trenton restaurant to waiting to see if Trenton is going to pursue other cases against him, but that’s all backburner stuff for him because …)
“All a cop has to say now is you’re a danger to the community and the judge can detain you,” Forchion said. “I knew a guy in jail who was caught for stealing toothbrushes from a dollar store. He was deemed a danger to his community. Guys there because of drunken incidents, danger to the community. It just goes on and on and on.”
And you know who he said isn’t stuck in no-bail limbo? Heroin users and kids with guns.
“For the heroin addicts it’s like Grand Central Station,” he said. “They come in, spend three days puking everywhere, then get released. And kids with guns … I guess possession of a gun is not considered a violent act, so these kids, gangbangers, are being released after cops find a MAC-10 under their seat.”
In Forchion’s eyes, the state of New Jersey completely “eviscerated” the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which plainly states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” What it means, courtesy of ConstitutionCenter.org: “(P)rohibits the federal government from imposing unduly harsh penalties on criminal defendants, either as the price for obtaining pretrial release or as punishment for crime after conviction.”
Forchion is stone convinced New Jersey’s bail reform flies directly in the face of the Constitution.
“It gave the prosecutor’s office tools to imprison you for two years. It’s the return of the dungeon act. It was a good attempt, but sometimes when I look at lefties, they’re just too gullible, too soft, and don’t look at the opposite side to see how something can be turned into evil,” Forchion said. “Alex Shalom from the ACLU, he’s good guy, a left-leaning nice guy who was part of the negotiations. He got taken advantage of. This is the ACLU’s ugly baby, but there’s no way they will admit that. Listen: You give people an inch and they’ll take a mile. The prosecutors offices in this state are taking miles now. The state of New Jersey destroyed the 8th Amendment. Now anyone can get thrown in the dungeon. There is no violence on my jacket at all. And if they were able to do this to me, someone who is so outspoken and has the ear of the media, it can happen to anyone.”
So Forchion, not one to sit on the sidelines, is planning on jumping right into the bail reform fight.
“I’m dedicating myself to upending bail reform,” he said.
He’s working closely with Dog the Bounty Hunter (really) who’s also vehemently opposed to the new law. Dog and his wife Beth will be helping Forchion set up speaking engagements across the nation. Bail bondsman are afraid New Jersey’s law could be replicated elsewhere.
“Of course, bail bondsman have a different stake in the game here,” Forchion noted. “But an enemy of an enemy is a friend.”
Forchion admits the old system had negatives, but “at least it was there. Bail was an option.”
Now in New Jersey, a law meant to keep people out of jail while they await trial is — at least according to Forchion — being used to keep people in jail.
“They can just detain you, throw you in the dungeon, and that’s it,” he said. “So I have new beef. Bail reform. Not sure when it will be, but my next protest will be outside the ACLU’s offices in Newark.”
So yeah. After nearly 20 years, The NJWeedman is dead, long live … well, we’re still working on the name. NJRepealBailReformMan is just a mouthful.
Jeff Edelstein is a columnist for The Trentonian. He can be reached at [email protected], facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and @jeffedelstein on Twitter.