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A criminal court judge in New Orleans steered defendants to an ankle-monitoring company owned by campaign contributors, according to a report released last week by the nonprofit Court Watch NOLA.
Judge Paul Bonin sent 15 defendants to ETOH Monitoring last year and four defendants to a different company, according to Court Watch NOLA’s review of court transcripts and attorney interviews. Several times, Bonin refused to release defendants from the monitors until they paid all their fees, the report said. The New Orleans Advocate and WDSU have coverage.
Over a 10-year period, Bonin received more than $8,000 in campaign financing from the ETOH executives, as well as a $1,000 campaign loan, according to the report.
A company executive gave money to five criminal court judges in New Orleans, but Bonin is the only judge to require defendants to use an ankle monitor from a specific company.
“The public should not be left to wonder if an ankle monitor was required by a judge because it comported with public safety or if the ankle monitor was required by the judge because it financially benefited a judge’s campaign contributor,” the report said.
ETOH Monitoring is owned by two New Orleans lawyers, one of whom was once a law partner with Bonin.
The sheriff’s office had operated the ankle-monitoring program from 2010 until 2016, when it quit the program during a budget dispute, according to the New Orleans Advocate. Judges turned to private vendors after that.
Ankle monitors usually cost defendants an installation fee of about $100 and a daily fee of at least $10, the report said.
Bonin told the New Orleans Advocate that ankle monitors help keep defendants out of jail and that he trusted ETOH Monitoring. He said he had a bad experience in one case with the other company, but he has since become more comfortable with its services.
Bonin said that, after he was contacted by Court Watch NOLA, he emailed lawyers for five defendants in his court who are currently using ETOH to let them know they can switch to the other company.