FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) --On Tuesday afternoon, Jamal Walters' biggest concern was having to wear an ankle bracelet if he posted $20,000 for the breaking and entering, larceny and possession of a stolen firearm charges he faces.
That was until a Fayetteville Police officer asked to address the court, revealing Walters was on post-release probation for similar crimes when he and Dexter Sutton allegedly broke into a Turnberry Court home on Dec. 19. In the middle of the day, they cleaned out the house, taking off with electronics, jewelry, and the homeowner's gun, investigators said. Their images, captured on the homeowner's surveillance system, were splattered across the media in the days following the break-in.
Warrants are still out for Sutton's arrest, and he just got out of prison for similar crimes, according to police.
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But the courts had no idea that Walters had just gotten out of jail this fall for similar B&E convictions in two separate counties. It's unclear whether the records were readily available, or if they would have been requested without the presence of that police officer in court. When the judge found out, he granted the increased bond request, sending Walters back to jail under a $75,000 bond.
"Sir, they're telling me you've had another breaking and entering charge you just dealt with?" asked District Court Judge Tal Baggett.
"Yeah, I just got of prison for that," Walters said, covering his face with his hands and shaking his head.
"And you're charged with a similar crime that you just went to prison for?" Baggett continued in disbelief.
"Yes, Sir," replied Walters.
"I'm worried about that," said Baggett.
"Me, too," said Walters.
Walters is one of several recently arrested home break-in or theft suspects who have landed back in jail shortly after their release, facing the same charges.
Appearing in the same courthouse with Walters this week was Eric Jones, a Wake County man accused of breaking into a River Road home to steal hot sauce and yoga towels.His bond was increased after his records indicated similar charges in 2010.
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A laundry list of theft charges were read for another man facing Baggett Tuesday. Days after his release, he was accused of stealing four pairs of Nike shoes from a Kohl's department store, after he'd been banned from a handful of local stores. The man told Baggett he was supporting a drug addiction and needed help.
We took the information to Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock, whose force finds itself spending resources on the same offenders over and over again.
"It's a decades old problem," said Medlock. "The state of North Carolina has not put forth the necessary resources to allow the court system to be efficient."
Medlock admits record-keeping and reporting between law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges could also improve, but the process proves difficult as offenders backlog the system.
In many instances, more recent crimes are tried as older ones are continued and criminals don't face the harshest penalties that could keep them in jail.
"There's just a way that criminals and then the attorneys know how, in some cases, to schedule these cases so that the judges, and the the district attorney in some cases, don't know the full story. So we're trying work through that as a system."
Other law enforcement officials will argue cases are too often pleaded down, and probation offices face the responsibility of accounting for more offenders than they can effectively monitor. Although Walters was on a post-release for B&E charges spanning two counties, he was not on an ankle monitor. Details were not immediately available surrounding the circumstances, but a number of scenarios could have applied, including a wait list for monitors.
Medlock said the pattern is frustrating for law enforcement, but the real victims have been homeowners spotlighted through these recent property crimes.
"It's not so much a consequence for us, it's a consequence for our city," said Medlock. "The people that are being victimized over and over and over again by these career criminals that continue to go through the system, to play the system, and they do that...Our citizens are the ones that are really being victimized."
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