Victim says pretrial services not properly supervising violent suspects
TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Thousands of domestic violence suspects are released to pretrial services every year and ordered to follow terms of release.
But how are they monitored -- and what happens if they don’t follow the rules?
Our 13 News investigation, Plea for Help, found flaws in the system.
Angel Carmona Rodriguez has confessed to strangling Gracie McDonough, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child.
A judge released him under the supervision of pretrial services, but McDonough questions whether he’s been supervised at all.
“I want to just, I want to be free,” McDonough said.
She tells 13 News she worries Rodriquez will seek revenge after she reported the attack.
He’s since pleaded guilty to the felony crime.
A judge released Angel under the supervision of pretrial services less than a day after his arrest, but Gracie said there’s little to no supervision.
“They give him these conditions of release and no one makes sure he’s doing it,” she said.
A pretrial services document shows Rodriquez cannot be within three blocks, or 1,800 feet, of McDonough’s home and work.
McDonough said Rodriquez has violated that order every time he’s shown up for work.
“He works right across from my work -- his car’s facing my work,” she said.
A Google map shows the workplace on the northeast side is located only about a block away (582 feet), well within the three-block boundary.
“We did confirm with the business owner that he works there,” said Sharon McDonough, Gracie’s mom.
She said she fears for her daughter’s life.
Sharon tells 13 News she believes Angel knows Gracie works across the street.
Gracie says she has seen Rodriquez outside multiple times and believes there’s no other reason for him to be working there.
“There’s no reason other than watching me. He can work literally anywhere else,” Gracie said.
A document shows deputies arrested Rodriquez at a different job location on the southeast side miles away.
The status update document shows pretrial services did not know Rodriquez switched jobs until Gracie and Sharon reported it to them on Dec. 20.
Months earlier, Gracie and Sharon reported that Rodriquez also lives within the three-block boundary.
The document shows it wasn’t until December that PTS called Rodriquez.
He told the staffer he still lives at the same address 4 miles away.
But Sharon checked.
“This gentleman who actually lives there at that address says Angel doesn’t live there,” Sharon said.
13 News Investigates talked to a tenant at that location and verified Rodriquez doesn’t live there.
“So not only is he violating that three-block rule, he’s violating his requirements to report,” Sharon said.
The same day Sharon called, pretrial services sent the status update to the court, but while on the call she said the pretrial staffer told her something she didn’t expect to hear.
“I asked if they go and confirm and he said ‘No, we don’t do that,”' Sharon said.
According to its website, part of pretrial services’ job is to verify the information.
Sharon said the staffer told her they make a phone call to the defendant, put notes in the file, and inform the court.
“That’s not verifying his statement,” said Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos. “That’s just taking his statement. This is almost getting silly.”
Though Nanos supported Pima County’s effort to reduce the jail population, he’s now highly critical of it.
13 Investigates reached out to pretrial services for an on-camera interview, but they declined.
We asked how pretrial services supervises suspects under its watch and received an emailed response saying part of its monitoring program is “informing the court of any reported violations of conditions of release.”
In Gracie’s case, she had to report the violations.
Sharon said not only did pretrial services not verify information, a staffer told her something else that shocked her. The staffer claimed pretrial services has no authority, jurisdiction or ability to follow up.
“They’re limited on their ability to enforce until the individual is put into either the control of the prison system or the control of adult probation services,” Sharon said.
A document revealed Rodriguez has “not maintained contact with pretrial services at the frequency directed.”
“I don’t know that I’d call that being monitored,” Nanos said. “I don’t think the judge, whoever the judge is, said, ‘Hey, I want you to stay in touch with pretrial services, but do it whenever you feel like it.’”
Sharon said she pushed the Pima County Attorney’s Office to step in and a prosecutor set up a hearing with the judge.
The judge didn’t send Rodriguez to jail for the violations, rather he extended the boundary from three blocks to two miles.
Gracie said she still can’t rest easy.
Sharon explained that the judge had been told at the hearing that Rodriguez’s “housing situation is unstable at the moment.”
13 News asked Sharon if she has faith in the system.
“No, and it’s a scary thing,” she said.
“They just keep giving him chances,” Gracie said. “They keep saying it’s okay, just ignore him. Why aren’t you just saying, okay, you’re going to jail, you violated this. It’s like they’re protecting the wrong person.”
Rodriguez’s sentencing on the strangulation charge is set for 9 a.m. Monday, March 13. 13 News will be there to update you on this story.
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