TRENTON, N.J. – A Dallas Cowboys fan accused of assault in a bar fight after an argument about the Philadelphia Eagles filed a federal lawsuit this week targeting New Jersey's new bail system.
Brittan Holland's lawsuit, which also includes a bail bonds company, argues that it's unfair that the Sicklerville man has been given home detention and required to wear an electronic monitor, rather than straight cash bail.
Lexington National Insurance Co. is also part of the lawsuit against the state attorney general and Camden County's prosecutor, which is seeking class action status. The suit was brought by Washington-based Kirkland & Ellis, and the suit is led by former George W. Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement.
The suit says that thousands of others are being subjected to "similar life-altering, liberty-restricting conditions without ever receiving the option of bail" and the reform efforts are also harming bail bonds companies.
The bail reforms were enacted Jan. 1 as a way to keep violent offenders detained until trial while providing poor, low-level defendants the opportunity to be freed. Aside from arguments from bail bond companies and some defendants, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have complained that it's led to some people being quickly released because they weren't deemed a threat, only to be re-arrested on new charge.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino defended the state's bail reform effort, arguing that it's meeting the goal of protecting the community by detaining dangerous defendants without bail and "minimizing pre-trial incarceration of low-risk, indigent defendants."
"We will continue to work with stakeholders across the criminal justice system to ensure the effective ongoing implementation of the new system," Porrino said.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor said the office had no comment.
Holland and his father were charged in April after an argument at a bar about the Eagles led to a fight that left two men injured. Police said that the fight in Winslow Township left one man with head injuries and the tavern owner's son with a broken nose.
Officers then found Holland and his father covered in blood in their home. Holland told police that it was a mutual fight and that he was a Cowboys fan. His father was wearing Pittsburgh Steelers slippers, police said.
The suit says that it doesn't have a problem with the overall goal of the bail reform effort, but that the state can achieve the goal while still offering monetary bail when appropriate.
"What New Jersey may not do is restrict the liberty of presumptively innocent defendants without offering the one alternative to substantial pre-trial deprivations that the Constitution expressly protects_monetary bail," the suit says.
Holland's lawyer says in the suit that his "liberty is sharply curtailed" because he's required to wear an electronic monitor on his ankle and report to the pre-trial services office every two weeks. His lawyer says he can't shop for food or take his son to baseball practice.