Following former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s latest arrest on more sexual child abuse charges, I was being asked, “Why don’t they just keep him in jail?”
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jenn Russell, of the York County District Attorney’s Office, has the answer.
She said, with the exception for murder, “people are entitled to some form of bail.”
There is typically no bail for murder defendants in Pennsylvania because of the serious penalties the charges carry — life without parole or a death sentence for a first-degree murder conviction, life without parole for second-degree and 20 to 40 years in state prison for third-degree.
All other state level charges may be, depending on the circumstances, bailable offenses, she said.
Sandusky was freed on $100,000 unsecured bail following his first arrest. That means, he did not actually have to post any bail. Bail for his second arrest was set at $250,000. Sandusky put up his house for $200,000 of that and a $50,000 bond for the remainder.
“Bail is to insure that a defendant will appear for court,” Russell said. “It is not to be in itself a form of punishment.”
“Every place is different as to what it high bail,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a reasonable amount. But it’s up to the judges as to what that amount is.”
She said judges consider such factors as any prior criminal history, family connections to the area and whether the person may be a flight risk.
“The court looks at a defendant as someone who has been accused, not convicted, and entitled to due process,” Russell said. ”Bail is part of that due process.”
As for Sandusky already on the hook for $350,000 for his freedom pending trial, Russell said his options may be limited if any additional charges are filed. She said his assets likely are limited and a bondsman may not want to take a chance on him.