A plea for stronger justice

A person suspected of a DUI spends $750 to bond out of jail. It's either that or stay in jail until court is in session and leave your fate to a judge.

There's no getting around it -- a person convicted of driving under the influence is going to pay the price.

Yet, in cases of assault, drug distribution or weapons possession, Moffat County prosecutors continually refuse to stand their ground and put convicted criminals where they belong -- behind bars.

Convicted felon Lynn Horn, a man with a track record for assault, drug possession and weapons possession, can still be seen driving Craig streets -- without a driver's license.

This is a man that, when officers come into contact with him, they call for back up before they even approach his car.

His criminal history is colorful. While in jail in February -- after serving time as a habitual traffic offender -- Horn assaulted another inmate and was charged with second- and third-degree assault. A plea agreement resulted in Horn facing the lesser of the two charges. In September of 2003, he was arrested on weapons possession charges.

Horn was booked into the Moffat County Jail again in November on charges of assault, criminal trespassing, possession of marijuana, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was released on bond.

While awaiting his court date on those charges, Horn was again picked up by the Craig Police Department for possession of illegal weapons, possession and distribution of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and -- surprise -- violation of the conditions of his bond.

When does our justice system say enough is enough?

When will an obviously violent man, with access to drugs and weapons, be removed from the streets of Craig?

This isn't an isolated situation.

Convicted felon Donald Manley skipped a sentencing hearing in two counties. Though he was a convicted felon, the deputy district attorney agreed to a request that Manley be released on a personal recognizance bond -- basically a cash-free ticket out of jail based on a person's job history, community involvement or record as an upstanding citizen.

Manley was released so he could spend time with his new wife.

He's been offered a plea agreement despite the fact that law enforcement had to drag him back from Texas into a Moffat County courtroom.

Two years were tacked onto Manley's six-year sentence, which was for an earlier conviction on the charge of criminal mischief. They likely will be served concurrently -- not actually extending Manley's stay in jail.

Manley has previously been convicted of felony charges in Texas, Florida and Oregon. The district attorney's office has even sought to charge him as a habitual criminal, yet he was given the opportunity to flee.

Protecting residents from the unknown is difficult enough. Law-enforcement personnel shouldn't be spending their time running in circles trying to build yet another case against a dangerous criminal that has escaped the criminal justice system, again.

Their lives and the lives of the people they're paid to protect shouldn't be put at risk to give a convicted felon chance after chance.

Let's step up to the plate and send criminals to trial instead of taking the easy way out and offering them a plea bargain.

Until that happens, Moffat County, Colorado will be the safest place in the nation to commit a crime.

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