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Failure to Protect New Jersey Jail Detainee Leads to Drastic Bail Reduction

A New Jersey man held in jail on charges of aggravated assault had his bail reduced from $500,000 to $15,000 after a beating by other prisoners left him confined to a wheelchair.

Joshua A. Maldonado, 20, was assaulted in the Cumberland County Jail in November 2012. After the attack it took about an hour and a half to transport him to the jail’s infirmary, then over two hours before he was airlifted to a hospital. Maldonado’s injuries were so severe that he remained in a coma for six days.

Caroline Turner, Maldonado’s attorney, subsequently moved to have his bail reduced. She argued that jail officials had been negligent in not preventing the attack on her client and that, because he was now wheelchair-bound and unable to protect himself, he could be killed if he remained at the jail.

“More than brutally assaulted,” said Turner, Maldonado “was nearly murdered and the jail did little to protect him.” She stated she was “truly shocked” by the length of time it took jail officials to get her client to a hospital for treatment.

Turner suggested that it would be prudent to reassign Maldonado to another cell so long as he remained in jail, “to prevent any inmates from coming back and finishing the job.”

Walter Slachetka, the prosecutor assigned to the case, objected to Turner’s bail-reduction request, suggesting that Maldonado was responsible for the beating he had incurred and claiming that, in any event, he was a flight risk.

“It is unfortunate what happened to Mr. Maldonado, but reducing his bail, allowing him to be released, would be a recipe for disaster,” said Slachetka, “[T]his was retaliation from an assault that Mr. Maldonado started and because of the landscape of gang activity I suspect [he] is involved in, I fear retaliatory action might be taken.”

At a December 2012 hearing, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge James Swift rejected the prosecution’s argument and reduced Maldonado’s bail to $15,000. “My hope is that no one takes any retribution against him while [he is] out, but I do not feel in his present state he will be roaming the streets in his wheelchair,” Judge Swift stated.

Maldonado’s family expressed gratitude for the ruling. “Just because someone is in jail does not mean they are not entitled to be treated like a human being,” said Maldonado’s father.

On August 6, 2013, Maldonado was found guilty of weapons and drug-related charges; he was sentenced the following month to serve up to 9 years in prison.


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