Repeat offenders bill 'running out of time' in S.C. Senate

Published: Apr. 8, 2013 at 10:36 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:14 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Things are moving very slowly for a bill that targets repeat offenders at the statehouse in Columbia. The man who drafted the bill, state senator Robert Ford, says the bill is entering the danger zone on the state level.

"We're running out of time," said Ford. "This is one of the most important bills in South Carolina."

Ford introduced Senate Bill 19 on January 8 this year which is also the first day the state senate convened.

Exactly three months later, Ford said he is still waiting for action to be taken.

"We have to get some of these guys off the street," says Ford. "Basically they're the same people."

The senator is worried the bill won't pass before the May 1 legislation crossover deadline. Bills that are passed by that date are sent to the House for reading and a vote to possibly become law.

However, if the bill isn't passed by May 1, it's essentially dead for the year.

"People should start participating in the process," said Ford, who is calling on those who live in South Carolina to call their legislators to give the bill new life.

Senate bill 19 aims to close the revolving door on repeat offenders by amending current laws surrounding bonds and the revocation of bond in certain circumstances.

The meat of the bill states,

If a person is convicted of committing or attempting to commit a subsequent general sessions court offense while on release on bond, the person must be imprisoned for a mandatory minimum of five years, no part of which may be suspended nor probation granted, in addition to the penalty provided for the principal offense. This five year sentence must be served consecutively.

Local officials demanded change for a safer community last week.

Charleston's Chief of Police and Mayor challenged lawmakers to fix a system they say is broken after a police officer was shot during a foot chase.

"He should not have gotten out of jail and his bond should have been revoked," said Mullen. "If that happened, Cory Goldstein would not have been shot Saturday night."

Mullen is referring to Saturday night's shootout on Savannah Highway where he says officer Cory Goldstein went after a suspect who refused to stop.

Police said 26-year-old Mark Lorenzo Blake Jr. jumped from his car on Sam Rittenberg Blvd. and took off on foot with Goldstein chasing behind him. Mullen says Blake turned around and shot his officer three times, one of those bullets wedged into his bullet proof vest just above his heart.

Reports say Goldstein returned fire and Blake suffered two gunshot wounds as well. Blake remains in the hospital.

The suspect had been released from the Charleston County Detention Center earlier this year after he was arrested on heroin trafficking charges in late February. Mullen said Blake was already out on bond from 2012 drug-related charges when he was arrested in February.

"We've got to do something to make sure violent habitual criminals are not out on our streets," said Mayor Joe Riley. "The criminal justice system is broken."

That something the Mayor is looking for seems to be in the works with the introduction of Ford's Senate bill.

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