Protesters Hit With 'Unconstitutional' $1 Million Bail Just Got Some Better News

The ACLU of Pennsylvania had decried the original bond amount as a likely warning to other protesters.
September 17, 2020, 9:17pm
People chant during a protest at the scene of a police shooting on Laurel Street and Union Street in Lancaster city on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.A man was shot by police earlier in the day after a reported domestic dispute, police said.

Several Pennsylvania protesters jailed on arson and rioting charges earlier this week just had their bail amounts significantly lowered from the original whopping amount of $1 million that sparked public outrage.

Lancaster County Judge Dennis Reinaker revised the original amounts, set by a different judge, to at least $50,000, unsecured, and at most $100,000, cash, for five protesters Thursday after many petitioned for lower bail, according to the local district attorney’s office. Four of those protesters had a previous bail set at $1 million, according to LancasterOnline, and one had a bail amount of $100,000 that was cut to $50,000 Thursday.

Reinaker described the initial bail decision, made by Magisterial District Judge Bruce Roth right after Lancaster was beset by destructive demonstrations over a fatal police shooting, as “spur of the moment.” Roth himself also reviewed and lowered bail to be at most $100,000 cash for four other protesters Thursday, according to the district attorney’s news release. Three had prior bail amounts of $1 million, according to LancasterOnline, while the prior bail amount wasn’t immediately clear for one protester.

The protests were triggered by the police shooting of Ricardo Muñoz Sunday afternoon. The 27-year-old Latino man, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was off his medication when his family said they called 911 for help. Police said Muñoz, armed with a knife, chased a responding officer, who shot him, and he died at the scene. The unnamed officer is on leave.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said protesters broke a window of the city’s police station, threw rocks and other items at law enforcement, and built a “bunker” in the middle of the road. The protesters also allegedly set fire to a dumpster, police said. The protesters’ charges range from “loitering and prowling at night” to arson and rioting.

Taylor Enterline, a 20-year-old described as a “street medic,” was booked in the Lancaster County Prison Monday on a litany of charges including arson, institutional vandalism, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and more. She had her bail amount lowered from $1 million to an unsecured price of $50,000 Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania had previously decried the bond amount for her and others as “exorbitantly high,” calling it an “abuse of the bail system.” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman wrote on Twitter that Enterline’s bail amount, specifically, was “blatantly unconstitutional” after a Twitter thread mentioning her arrest went viral.

“Taylor Enterline was arrested Sunday night after peacefully protesting in Lancaster,” a friend wrote in a GoFundMe organized to help her family. “She was working as a medic, running around helping those that were hurt and or tear-gassed. She was then charged with guns by police along with another person from her activist group. She is being held under false charges that all witnesses protest against. She was denied her family lawyer and charged with a $1,000,000 bail that is a direct violation to her 8th Amendment rights.”

The father of another arrested medic, Kathryn Patterson, told the Associated Press his daughter was held on a $1 million bail too, which he called “obscene.” Her bail was also lowered to $50,000, unsecured, Thursday.

Roth declared the $1 million bail for at least seven of the 13 protesters arrested after demonstrations Sunday and early Monday morning, which the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office called “violent and riotous,” according to LancasterOnline. While the office later pointed out that “bail is not a means of punishment” but a way to ensure that people show up to future court hearings, the ACLU saw it differently, and said the high amount was more likely a warning to other protesters.

Protesters with the newly unsecured bond, including Enterline, can leave the county prison Thursday without having to pay. But several still have cash bail, or will be placed on house arrest once they’re released.

Cover: People chant during a protest at the scene of a police shooting on Laurel Street and Union Street in Lancaster city on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.A man was shot by police earlier in the day after a reported domestic dispute, police said. (Andy Blackburn/LNP/LancasterOnline via AP)