MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Concerned Miami Beach citizens are doing their part to stop the revolving door of repeat criminals who they say are set free from jail only to commit more crimes once they are back on the streets.
Dwayne Bunyan was recently arrested after a fight was captured on camera. At the time of the crime, he'd logged 180 arrests over 20 years for offenses that included drug-related crimes and robbery.
Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg found him Thursday morning on Ocean Drive, where he typically heads after being released from jail.
Right across the street, she found Kevin Gibson, also known as "Pirate," who is due back in court in December for drug charges.
"Don't put the camera on me. Don't put the camera on me," he said.
Gibson was just released last April from the latest of his five prison stays over four decades. He has done time for a variety of different crimes, ranging from drugs to robbery to kidnapping.
"You're free on bond," Milberg said.
"Who told you that?" Gibson asked.
"It's in the court records," Milberg said.
"Why you put a camera on me?" Gibson asked.
"How many times have you been in and out of jail?" Milberg asked.
"I need money," Gibson said.
"The criminals feel comfortable, and the residents and tourists do not feel comfortable," concerned Miami Beach resident John Deutzman said.
A group of Miami Beach residents who are wondering why they continue to see repeat offenders arrested, released and back on the beach have organized, done research and are now heading to court hearings to convince judges to keep the chronically accused in custody.
"They tell the cops, 'I don't care you're arresting me. I'm going to be out of here tomorrow,'" Deutzman said.
"The behavior is such that there is no consequence for their action, and we're trying to put the heat on so they feel the consequence," Jeff Feldman said.
Law enforcement is on record supporting the citizens' engagement, but a Miami-Dade public defender thinks the citizens are the ones breaking the law.
"We can't be throwing out the Constitution just because some people are unhappy with some of the results in court," Carlos Martinez said.
The man whose office provides legal defense for the indigent calls it a lack of due process. He said defendants are blindsided at bond hearings by what might be irrelevant or hearsay testimony with no chance to rebut, like past arrests or charges that were dropped and no longer count.
"If you have citizens that are concerned, they should work the process legally," Martinez said. "There is nothing precluding them from going and talking to the state attorney."
At Donnie Sims's bond hearing last week, the assistant public defender tried to block citizen testimony.
"As noted multiple times, he does not have standing to address the court," TerryAnn Howell said.
Florida's Rules of Criminal Procedure does not directly address standing, but does give judges wide discretion in what facts to consider when setting a bond.
"I believe the increased bond is warranted based on numerous convictions this year," Judge Mindy Glazer said.
"It's the people versus the defendant," Deutzman said. "We are the people. We're the community. We're allowed to talk as to the risk to the community."
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle sent Milberg a statement supporting the citizens' participation in the legal process, but stopped short of condoning the group's specific actions.
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