MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - The top magistrate judge in Mecklenburg County is stepping down. This comes after many have said that it’s too easy for repeat felons to get out of jail and back on the street.
Chief Magistrate Judge Khalif Rhodes has been criticized for being easy on people who are arrested, but he says the changes he's implemented at the jail regarding bail are not the reason violent crime is up in Charlotte.
“We had an uphill battle and it may have been a steeper climb than I anticipated, for sure,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes’ resignation is effective next Friday, Sept. 13.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney has said Rhodes’ changes bail policies at the jail have made it easier for those arrested to get out and back on the streets. With several cases of suspects committing serious crimes after their release, Putney wants to put a stop to it.
"Until we get serious on those repeat violent offenders we are going to deal with violence in our city,” said Putney.
Last month 17-year-old Brenna Harris was in jail for less than two hours when a magistrate judge let the teen, charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, out of jail.
In July, Romell Mackey flipped off a judge during court. The suspect, accused of assaulting three police officers, was arrested 63 times, according to CMPD records.
“The easy decision would be to lock everyone up but the statute doesn't require that the statute requires a thoughtful, meaningful look at pre-trial release,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes says he decided in April to resign, but extended his time at the courthouse to try and implement changes he and Putney discussed.
He says the criticism he's received over reducing bail minimums and putting more people on ankle monitors and releasing them from jail did not factor into his decision to resign.
“It's extremely easy to talk about safety, it's really hard to talk about justice because justice isn't one sided, you have to ensure that you care about justice because justice isn't one-sided you have to ensure that you care about justice for both victim and defendant and it's not easy to do that,” he said.
Rhodes was first appointed as a judge in 2015 and he's been chief magistrate since 2017. He says he's returning to private law practice, but didn't rule out running for election again. He lost his race for district court judge last year.