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Releasing dangerous convicts due to COVID backlogs; new case getting new scrutiny

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 21:47:54-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — When Deangelo Hawkins was charged with first-degree child abuse last week, it was just the latest in his legal trouble.

He was out on personal bond from Wayne County. Now his case is getting new scrutiny. The prosecutor calls that early release “wholly inadequate.”

Hawkins violated probation on an earlier conviction of assault. Plus, he was facing new charges of assault, domestic violence and criminal sexual conduct, all with the same victim.

During two years with the pandemic, judges have had to balance a backlogged system, backlogged jails with COVID-19 spreading and releasing people to ease the pressure.

“We all point our fingers when a situation goes bad like this, but we have to remember the dozens, maybe hundreds of other cases where people have done very well on bond and we're glad that they haven't been detained unnecessarily,” Hawkins’ defense attorney Sanford Schulman told 7 Action News.

The Wayne County prosecutor argued against the personal bond and asked for house arrest. Both were denied by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard.

Schulman says the Wayne County charges are with Hawkins’ wife with whom he lived off and on, and they have two children together.

On March 5, Hawkins was sharing an apartment in Wixom with a girlfriend and babysitting her 4-year-old son Jaice Dupont alone when he called 911. The toddler had severe head injuries and died five days later.

Wixom police say Hawkins lied and said the injury was a simple accident. They are investigating previous injuries of broken ribs and stomach trauma with the toddler and once that investigation is complete, murder charges could be issued against Hawkins. Police say the boy’s mother is cooperating.

In June of 2020, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lillard allowed Hawkins out of jail early on a personal bond.

“The vast majority of cases are successful wherever defendants are released and are not held for months and months, even years,” Schulman said.

A hearing in the Wayne County case is set for Wednesday morning before a different Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Cox.

Hawkins remains in the Oakland County Jail on $1 million bond.

The full statement from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office:

Defendant Hawkins pleaded guilty to Felonious Assault in June 2019 and was placed on probation. In December 2019 he was charged with very serious charges involving the same victim. This caused the probation violation. The bond set in the new case was wholly inadequate. 

The original bond for the December 2019 case was set at the Arraignment on the Warrant on December 7, 2019, where the defendant received a $300,000/10% with GPS tether. A bond hearing was held on March 6, 2020, before Judge Qiana Lillard and was denied prior to COVID shutdowns. A second bond hearing was held on June 26, 2020. Our position was that due to the serious charges involving the same victim Defendant Hawkins should not be allowed to have a bond reduction even during COVID-19. Judge Lillard granted a reduction to $5000 personal bond with GPS tether. WCPO objected to this. Once the bond reduction was granted it is important to note that WCPO asked that the defendant at least be placed under house arrest, but the Court denied the request. 

Even taking Covid shutdown into consideration, in a case as serious as this, at the very least house arrest should have been a condition of bond.  

- Wayne County Prosecutor's Office