Bail cut for 2 in deadly beating case in Old City

Victim Kevin Kless
Victim Kevin Kless
Posted: July 03, 2012

Two men charged in the Jan. 14 beating death of Temple University graduate Kevin Kless during an early morning fight in Old City were granted reduced bail Monday by a Philadelphia judge.

When they will be released, however, is an open question.

Demand for electronic ankle bracelets that ensure people on house arrest stay inside the house has sometimes outstripped supply, resulting in waits of weeks to months.

That's true even when the defendant has cash on hand to pay the required 10 percent of the bail amount.

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner approved the reduction of the bail for Steven Ferguson, 21, from $500,000 to the $150,000 agreed upon by Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley and defense attorney Stephen P. Patrizio. He also reduced bail from $500,000 to $40,000 for codefendant Felix Carrillo, 23, after argument by defense attorney Scott P. Sigman.

Lerner's ruling followed a similar one on June 5 for a third defendant, Kenneth Enriquiz-Santiago, whose bail was cut from $500,000 to $20,000.

But as O'Malley noted, four weeks later Enriquiz-Santiago remains in prison waiting for a bracelet.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have complained of the wait for electronic monitoring bracelets for months.

Last week, for example, it came up at the bail hearing of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia official who was taken into custody June 22 after being found guilty of child endangerment in the church sex-abuse trial.

At a June 26 hearing, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said she was inclined to release Lynn, 61, on bail pending sentencing on Aug. 13 if he is electronically monitored.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said the idea was meaningless because Lynn would be sentenced by the time his ankle bracelet was ready.

Lynn remains in prison, though Sarmina said she would revisit the issue at a hearing Thursday.

In an interview after Monday's hearing, Lerner said he believes it must be more cost-efficient for a cash-strapped city to invest in electronic monitoring than prison cells. "It's tremendously frustrating for judges and lawyers to have this situation . . . where somebody who is entitled to house arrest and doesn't pose any serious danger."

Common Pleas Court Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, supervising judge of the criminal division, said the reason for waits for electronic monitoring is more complicated than it seems.

Woods-Skipper acknowledged that "sometimes the situation is very fluid in terms of the number of monitors available."

Some days, the judge said, there is a rush of defendants approved for house arrest. Often, however, Woods-Skipper said, delays are caused because the defendant's house does not meet the criteria for house arrest, or does not have a landline phone without call-forwarding or other unacceptable services.

The courts have 855 monitoring units. Each year, about 2,700 people are put on house arrest with electronic monitoring - more than the number of monitors because most house-arrest terms are short.

The units cost about $1,325 each, excluding the personnel costs to monitor the units around the clock, Woods-Skipper said. Each unit is calibrated according to the individual's release rules. Some people may work, go to school, or attend church as long as they are home by a certain time.

If the person cuts off the bracelet, or travels outside the allowed geographic area, a radio signal alerts authorities. According to court documents, the monitors also detect illegal alcohol use through a person's sweat.

Court-monitoring staff respond to about 2,500 alerts each week.

In Monday's hearing in the Kless killing, Lerner said he would consider releasing the men on unmonitored house arrest if no units are available by Aug. 1.

Enriquiz-Santiago, of Juniata Park; his cousin Carrillo, of Olney; and Ferguson, of Fox Chase, were originally charged with a general count of murder.

The charge was subsequently reduced to third-degree, which qualified them for bail.

Kless, 23, was killed in the confrontation about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 14 at Fourth and Chestnut Streets. Police said Kless and his girlfriend were walking when Kless tried to hail a cab and cursed loudly when the taxi kept going.

Police said Ferguson and his two companions apparently thought Kless was cursing at them and stopped. The cousins got out of the car and allegedly began fighting Kless.

The two walked away and Ferguson allegedly walked up and punched Kless once in the head. The blow tore a blood vessel in Kless' neck, and he was dead before he hit the ground, police said.

All the parties had been clubbing before the incident, police said, and the autopsy showed Kless had a blood-alcohol level of 0.262 percent - more than three times the legal threshold for intoxication in Pennsylvania.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|