YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, MI — Facing questions and criticisms from the public about how an accused shooter of a 6-year-old boy in Ypsilanti Township was allowed to go free on bond this week, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor Eli Savit offered more explanation Friday, June 11.
“Over the last several days, we have fielded numerous questions regarding the recent shooting of a 6-year-old child in our community. Specifically, people are asking how we allowed the person arrested to go free,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“In Michigan, the setting of bond is a prosecutorial process and a judicial decision. Police agencies do not have authority to set bond,” the statement continued. “In this particular case, staff of the Washtenaw County Sheriffs Office investigated, apprehended the suspect, and swore before a magistrate to the facts of the case. Our staff arrested the suspect and took him off the streets because we believed he was responsible for the crimes committed and he was a threat to community.”
It is then the prosecutor’s job to advocate on behalf of the people, the defense’s job to advocate for their client and the magistrate’s job to make the bond decision, the sheriff’s office said.
The prosecutor’s office filed a motion to modify the bond after the suspect was released. A judge then approved the modification and the sheriff’s office took the suspect back into custody.
Ryan Le-Nguyen, 29, is now being held on a $100,000 bond. He is accused of firing at the boy around 4:30 p.m. June 6 on the 1300 block of Candlewood Lane, with a bullet striking the boy’s arm and causing non-life threatening injuries.
After an arrest on four charges, including assault with intent to murder, Le-Nguyen posted a $10,000 bail for his release set by Magistrate Elisha Fink of the Washtenaw County 14-A District Court. Savit criticized the decision, filing a motion to modify the bond and bring Le-Nguyen back into custody.
The motion was granted Thursday, June 10, Savit’s office said. Judge Anna Frushour of the 14A-1 District Court granted the motion.
In an interview Friday, Savit responded to criticisms that no one from his office was present for the arraignment Monday, June 7, when the initial bond was set. His office provides written bond recommendations to magistrates in every case, but historically it’s relatively rare that prosecutors attend arraignments, he said.
Across the state, prosecutor’s offices aren’t staffed to attend arraignments, he said.
But given the seriousness of this case, it’s clear someone from his office should have been there, he said, adding he wants to make sure situations like this don’t happen again.
“I will own it and say that we need to do better going forward,” he said. “This week, we have put together a plan which is going to have (assistant prosecutors) at arraignment for pretty serious cases moving forward.”
Joe Simon, Le-Nguyen’s defense attorney, appeared before Fink on Monday to argue for his client’s release.
While the charges are serious, Simon said, they don’t make a lot of sense to him because it’s his understanding the shooting was a reckless act, that Le-Nguyen is alleged to have fired a shot outside from inside a residence, not necessarily at anyone in particular, but in response to noises on the property where he was staying, and Le-Nguyen did not intend to assault anyone.
The incident occurred at Le-Nguyen’s girlfriend’s residence, Simon said.
Le-Nguyen told the magistrate the boy he’s accused of shooting is a stranger to him.
“In terms of assessing my client’s danger of lethality, he doesn’t have any particular person with whom there’s an outstanding grudge or anything like that, so I’m asking the court to set as reasonable bond as possible,” Simon told the magistrate.
Fink said some kind of bond was important to emphasize the seriousness of the situation to Le-Nguyen. At a minimum, he made an extremely bad choice involving a firearm, which is always a concern to the court, she said.
Fink said she didn’t consider Le-Nguyen a flight risk, but she thought he posed some potential danger to the community due to his bad judgment, not any particular malice.
“Not because you meant to have anything go wrong, but because you chose to behave in a way that was, in fact, dangerous,” she told him at the arraignment.
The bond form the prosecutor’s office submitted stated Le-Nguyen has no criminal record or assault history and it was unknown if he made any threats.
The prosecutor’s office asked the court to order Le-Nguyen to wear a GPS tether if released due to “safety concerns for victim and defendant,” plus issue a no-contact order and prohibit him from possession a firearm as a condition of pretrial release.
Savit responded Friday to criticisms that his office didn’t initially give enough justification for the higher $100,000 bond sought. He noted the charges his office brought are punishable by up to life in prison.
“Could more have been said on the bond information form? Sure,” he said. “But we made the requests that we did and I think that the gravity of the charges that we saw fit to file reflected why we were seeking that bond.”
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