Heated argument over ‘Bail Bill’ included multiple ‘F-Bombs.’
By Lee Williams
A meeting between the state’s top cop and its chief public defender became so heated, so loud and so profane Thursday, that a worried Senate staffer called the Capitol Police to intervene, the Caesar Rodney Institute has learned.
Attorney General Beau Biden and Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill had been discussing Senate Bill 60, an act that would be the first leg of a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to define certain criminal offenses for which bail or pre-trial release would not be allowed.
The Caesar Rodney Institute was told the two attorneys began yelling at each other, frequently using the “F-Word.”
A Senate staffer – worried that the screaming and profanity could be indicative of a security risk – called the Capitol Police Department, the agency charged to maintain order inside Legislative Hall.
Two Capitol Police officers were dispatched to investigate the source of the screaming and profanity.
Biden and O’Neill, however, had left the area before the officers arrived. Since the source of the yelling was not found, the officers did not take any action or complete any official reports.
O’Neill confirmed he never saw a Capitol Police officer.
“Beau and I had a disagreement over a business issue – SB 60,” O’Neill told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “He’s supporting it. I oppose it. We had a lively debate.”
As to any profane yelling inside Legislative Hall, O’Neill said, “I don’t recall.”
The Caesar Rodney Institute asked Biden in an e-mail whether his office would prosecute a Delaware taxpayer for screaming profanity inside of the People’s House. However, Biden was not willing to be interviewed for this story.
The cause of the cussing: SB 60
Battle lines are already being drawn over the legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anthony J. DeLuca, D-Varlano.
Sen. Deluca’s bill is designed to address an anomaly within the state’s criminal justice system.
Currently, bail may only be denied to a defendant in capital cases. However, this constitutional provision was written in 1792, at a time when crimes other than first-degree murder were punishable by death, such as rape, robbery and burglary.
Rape and aggravated arson were removed from the list of capital crimes by Supreme Court application of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, partially in recognition that application of the death penalty was sometimes racially motivated.
DeLuca’s legislation would allow bail to be withheld from crimes “as the General Assembly may from time to time prescribe by law, when the proof is positive or the presumption great.”
By changing Article I, Section 12 of the state constitution, the General Assembly would be able to define the offenses that may subject a defendant to denial of bail, which preserves the state’s due process protections through hearings related to the offenses.
Nowadays, under current state law, even defendants such as Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley – who investigators suspect of molesting more than 100 children – must be granted an opportunity to make bail.
Bradley, while arguably the most notorious, is not the first defendant accused of a heinous crime to be afforded the opportunity to post bail and walk away from a Delaware courtroom.
In the 1970s, Delaware captured an international drug lord, along with tons of marijuana and pounds of cocaine.
He posted the required $1 million in bail, and was never seen again.
Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or email@example.com
The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.
© Copyright Jan.25, 2010 by the Caesar Rodney Institute