Sue the bastards!
She says she showed them all her identification, which they took. Then, she called 911 and Rutherford police responded. Outside one of the men showed an officer that same blurry photo.
Claudia Santana, Victim: "He showed it to him and the police officer said, 'oh yeah, that's her' - meaning me."
As her two children slept along with her mother, Santana says she was handcuffed and led to a van on the street, with her husband screaming in protest, and the Rutherford police officers doing nothing.
Utterly disgraceful, particularly since it's more than a 30 mile drive from Rutherford to Dover. (Fortunately, her husband had managed to keep up.) In any case, the bounty hunters who treated Mrs. Santana this way are scum, plain and simple.In Dover, the men parked outside the police station. The "supervisor" bounty hunter went into the station with all of Santana's identification and came out 10 minutes later.
"He said, 'I'll be good to you, but if you keep crying, you'll make me upset, and I'll change my mind,'" Santana said.
The man took her handcuffs off and "I jumped out of the van," Santana said. "They didn't explain it was a mistake. He kept saying he's doing me a favor."
And then the two men drove off, she said, leaving her outside the police station.
"He left me in the street," she said.
I'm sure that someone out there will correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that bounty hunters couldn't enter private residences to apprehend a bail jumper without first notifying local police of their plans. It's clear that laws vary from state to state and what I've learned of New Jersey laws is that they are very lax about bounty hunters. That clearly needs to be changed.
What's even worse about this case is that Mrs. Santana ended up in the U.S. because she had fled from her native Columbia, where her grandmother had been killed by guerillas. She thought she had escaped having to worry about armed men breaking into her house late at night to take her away.
Three things need to happen now:
- The bounty hunters responsible for this need to be arrested, charged with abduction, and hopefully locked up for a long time as an example to other bail bondsmen not to go too far. Yes, mistakes happen, but there should be a severe penalty to pay for such reckless disregard for verifying a fugitive's identity. These morons clearly demonstrated such reckless disregard by relying on a blurry picture and ignoring the multiple forms of identification Mrs. Santana showed them to prove that she was who she said she was. As Mrs. Santana said, ""It sounds like the 'Twilight Zone' scene that nobody believes who you are. If you have IDs and that's not enough, what else can you do, what else can you show?" I don't give a crap for the bounty hunters' likely defense that they have to assume that the suspect's ID is forged. These guys aren't the police. If they can't easily show that the ID is forged or otherwise invalid, then they shouldn't be able to arrest the suspect, particularly if the crime the suspect was charged with was nonviolent.
- The Rutherford police who let the bounty hunters take Mrs. Santana on such a flimsy pretext need to be disciplined if they violated law or policy. Regardless of whether these police made a mistake, as a matter of policy, police should be required to insist upon better evidence from these freelancers before letting them take a suspect.
- If #1 doesn't happen, then Mrs. Santana should hire a lawyer immediately and sue the pants off the bail bond company (Mantis Recovery Service of Philadelphia) and the Borough of Rutherford. There are few times when I advocate this, but this is about as lawsuit-worthy an offense as I can think of. If there is any justice in the world, Mrs. Santana will win a fat settlement and bankrupt the company. (Indeed, this sounds like a case for Ron Kuby.)