Nearly half of captured ‘Most Wanted’ fugitives already back out

The Washington Examiner

By Emily Babay

A convicted killer wanted for a parole violation. Two sex offenders who failed to register with authorities. A mugger on the run after violating probation.

Those are some of the “Most Wanted” fugitives that authorities took into custody over the past two years, thanks to readers of The Washington Examiner.

But of the 20 fugitives who were apprehended after having been profiled in The Examiner’s “Most Wanted” feature, nearly half are already out on the street. Six have been released, one is slated to be let go within weeks, and two others are out on bond awaiting trial.

The others are being held in various local, state and federal detention facilities.

Most of the captured fugitives who are now released, or will be soon, were wanted for probation or parole violations, after having faced more serious charges.

Lenient or inconsistent penalties for those who violate their release conditions means there’s little incentive for parolees to follow the law, said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

“When you announce what the rules are going to be, and someone breaks them and there’s no consequence, word gets out pretty quickly,” he said.

The fate of apprehended fugitives is determined on a case-by-case basis and influenced by a range of factors. Some jurisdictions impose tougher penalties than others, and judges don’t always follow prosecutors’ requests.

“Most Wanted” fugitives who have been released include Eddie Shade, who was wanted for violating his parole on manslaughter and weapons charges and was released from federal prison in June 2009; and Eric Michael Cunningham, who violated his probation for his role in the assault and robbery of a jogger in Adams Morgan and was released from the D.C. Jail in May.

Larry Donnell Cotton and Andre Stevenson, both wanted for failing to register as sex offenders, have also been released.

And Prince Stewart III, wanted for violating parole on a federal weapons conviction, and Calvin Herring, who went missing after violating his conditions of parole on assault charges, are both set to be released this summer.

Such outcomes aren’t unusual, said Rob Fernandez, commander of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

The task force targets violent offenders, who are generally incarcerated after they are apprehended, Fernandez said. But he said there isn’t a typical amount of time spent in custody because the fugitives are wanted for a variety of charges across a range of jurisdictions.

What happens to an apprehended fugitive varies based on the status of the case, the offense, criminal history and authorities’ discretion, said Ben Friedman, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.

In fugitive cases, Friedman said, prosecutors “tend to be pretty aggressive, but the court can disagree.”

Why a fugitive took off factors into what happens after they’re back in custody, said Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

When a fugitive on probation or parole is caught, the agency often asks for that supervision to be revoked and the offender to be reincarcerated, Sipes said.

But he said some fugitives don’t flee deliberately to evade authorities, and instead abscond because of family situations or mental health issues.

In those cases, Sipes said, the agency might ask for higher levels of supervision, such as GPS monitoring or more drug testing, rather than incarceration.

“For individuals that pose a clear risk to public safety, we’ll take every action to ask for the person to be reincarcerated,” he said. “We try to balance the circumstances versus the level of risk to public safety.”

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