‘Jail cells are open’: Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police calls out low bond for repeat offender

Many violent or repeat offenders are back on the streets within hours or days of their arrests.
Since 2020, Demont Forte has been in and out of the Mecklenburg County Jail at least six times.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Mecklenburg County District Attorney and Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief have voiced their frustrations regarding low bonds set for violent offenders.

47-year-old Demont Forte was arrested Tuesday, facing charges of assault by strangulation, felony stalking, assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a government official.

Judge Jennifer Fleet set his bond at $5,000, releasing him back onto the streets two days after his arrest.

Forte has previously served time in prison and has a slew of arrests on his record, dating all the way back to 1994 when he was convicted of manslaughter.

In recent years, court records that show he’s repeatedly faced charges of violent crimes against women.

“Those are serious offenses, but the most concerning part about this is that he was out of jail for having done the same thing to the same victim previously and was on an ankle bracelet when this occurred,” Daniel Redford, President of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police, said.

Redford said it’s time for a change to bond policies in Mecklenburg County.

Just since 2020, Forte has been in and out of the Mecklenburg County jail at least six times, arrested for crimes including assault on a female and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Records show he was released on bond within days of his arrest each time.

Related: Police chief, Meck. Co. DA say change is needed in how bonds are set for violent offenders

Redford worries about the message it sends to police, victims, criminals and the community as a whole.

“Come to Mecklenburg County. Our jail cells are open,” he said. “There’s no real protections in place when a violent crime has occurred to ensure that these offenders are where they need to be.”

Police Chief Johnny Jennings has been vocal on the issue, discussing solutions just last month.

“We increase the accountability, have a better structure and take away some of the ambiguity that’s held in the magistrate’s office,” Chief Jennings said.

Until that happens, Redford says they will continue to fight.

“When you look at the totality of what this individual has done and the chaos he has inflicted, I think that there is no other reasonable outcome then for him to remain in jail pending the outcome of his court case,” he said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Trial Court Administrator’s Office told WBTV:

In response to your inquiry about Demont Forte and about bond determinations for specific pending cases involving the individual, judicial officials in the 26th Judicial District cannot comment on pending litigation or answer questions about specific criminal cases or decisions.

We can, however, share information regarding bond determinations and pretrial release, generally. The 26th Judicial District operates according to the U.S. Constitution, North Carolina Constitution, North Carolina General Statues and Local Rules.

The 26th Judicial District continues to work with local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office to ensure judicial officials have the necessary information to make informed decisions about bond determinations and conditions of pretrial release.

Under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article I, Section 27 of the Constitution of North Carolina, excessive bail shall not be required. Most of the relevant statutory bail provisions are in Articles 24 and 26 of Chapter 15A (Criminal Procedure Act) of the North Carolina General Statutes. Please note that there is no statutory authorization for preventative detention in North Carolina.

Article 26 contains G.S. 15A-534, which addresses procedures for determining pretrial release conditions. G.S. 15A-534 provides that, in granting pretrial release, the judicial official must impose a written promise, custody release, or unsecured bond “unless he determines that such release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required; will pose a danger of injury to any person; or is likely to result in destruction of evidence, subornation of perjury, or intimidation of potential witnesses.” Because a secured bond is not forfeited for any reason other than failure to appear, imposition of a secured bond cannot function to protect against injury or prevent the destruction of evidence, subornation of perjury or intimidation of witnesses unless it results in detention.

In addition to the factors outlined in G.S. 15A-534, please refer to the 26th Judicial District’s Bail Policy for how decisions are made regarding bail and pretrial release conditions. Judges are independent officials who rely on the information presented during court hearings to make decisions. You may also find it helpful to refer to bail policy information on Mecklenburg County’s website. Additionally, since 2014, the 26th Judicial District has been engaged in bail reform efforts as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge. You can find more information regarding the specific initiatives and efforts in Mecklenburg County at the Safety + Justice Challenge website.

Related: CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings discusses low bonds in exclusive interview