Cowley County residents question bond for sex offender

WINFIELD, Kansas – Some residents are questioning why a convicted sex offender is out on bond.

“Shouldn’t he be locked up while he’s waiting on his sentence?” asks Winfield resident, Connie. “I don’t know if he should be wandering the streets.”

The prosecutor, Christopher Smith asks the same question.

“He had been convicted June 4th, of one count of aggravated criminal sodomy,” says Smith. “He had three prior convictions for child sex crimes or violent sex crimes. He is looking at a penalty, under the Jessica’s law, of life in prison without the possibility of parole. So I was against releasing him on bond.”

The man in question is Loarn Fitzgerald II.

Smith says he contested the release of Fitzgerald II and says he does not want the man out, just a couple of weeks before sentencing.

Fitzgerald is out on $25,000 bond.

“He has to wear monitoring GPS,” says Smith. “He has to stay at his house and he can’t have contact with kids under the age of 14. There are provisions of his release.”

KSN asked Smith if he considered Fitzgerald II a flight risk given that he could be facing a sentence of life in prison.

KSN also asked Smith if he considers Fitzgerald II a possible danger to the community.

“Personally, as the prosecutor, I consider him to be both,” says Smith. “Looking at the sentence he is under, life in prison without the possibility for parole, it’s the second most severe sentence the state of Kansas has. The only more severe sentence is the sentence of death in the state of Kansas. So to me, a person who has absolutely nothing to lose, I mean, I would consider (him) a flight risk. Is he a danger to other people? Well, he’s been convicted now four times of crimes against children. There are children in the home, there are children in the community. Yes, I think he would probably be a danger.”

Smith points out he respects the position of the judge, and also says Kansas statutes allow for bond after a person has been convicted.

One lawmaker says it may be time for change.

“The judge obviously was using his own discretion and I’m not questioning the judge’s motivation or intent,” says Republican Kansas Senator Michael O’Donnell of Wichita. “But that… $25,000 bond? It’s mind-blowing that it would be that low of a bond.”

O’Donnell says it’s time for Kansas lawmakers to get involved.

“The legislature does need to step in and just have a minimum threshold,” says O’Donnell. “If you are accused or charged with a certain crime, and some of the most horrific crimes are child sex crimes, that we are going to hold you accountable. There’s going to be minimum bail requirements.  I believe everybody is innocent until proven guilty, however, where you have certain instances where somebody is previously a registered sex offender, convicted sex offender, we might not have as much leeway with those individuals.”

KSN reached out to Judge Pringle in this case but did not get a response so far.

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