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Judge orders release of man at center of bail reform case

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Public defender Anita Nabha places her hand on the back of Kenneth Humphrey, who was granted release to a residential treatment center for seniors by Judge Brendan Conroy following nearly a year in custody after finding he posed no threat to public safety while under release conditions including electronic monitoring at the Hall of Justice on Thursday, May 3, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A San Francisco judge on Thursday ordered the release of the man whose residential burglary case is at the center of a landmark decision on bail reform in California.

Kenneth Humphrey, 64, will be released to a residential treatment center for seniors after Judge Brendan Conroy found he posed no likely threat to public safety while under release conditions including electronic monitoring.

Inside a packed courtroom, Conroy reminded Humphrey to comply with those conditions.

“You’ve become a symbol for some people,” Conroy said. “This is the second chance… if you are out of bounds… i’ll put you back in.”

SEE RELATED: Inmate at center of bail reform fight still jailed, awaiting new hearing

Humphrey has spent more than 11 months in County Jail on $350,000 bail for allegedly robbing his 79-year-old neighbor and threatening to cover his mouth with a pillow case.

In January, a California appeals court found that Humphrey was entitled to a new bail hearing and ruled that judges must consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail.

Prosecutors Allison Macbeth and Courtney Burris had sought to keep Humphrey in jail, citing previous robbery convictions going back to the 1980s, which they said showed that Humphrey was a threat to public safety and had a pattern of preying on vulnerable victims such as women and the elderly.

Prosecutors on Tuesday had said the victim in the case wanted to give a statement in court, but the victim was unable to attend because he is sick and bed-ridden, according to prosecutors.

Outside of court, Deputy Public Defender Anita Nabha said of Humphrey, “He’s obviously very happy that he’s going to be able to continue this fight outside of jail and continue to work on his health and progress.”

“This is a monumental decision today by the judge and we’re very grateful that he is abiding by the new law and he’s recognizing that this case, Mr. Humphrey’s case, changed state law,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

After his 2017 arrest, Humphrey’s bail had initially been set at $600,000 based on the state’s bail schedule, but a judge eventually lowered it to $350,000 after the San Francisco public defender’s office argued that the initial amount was excessive and that Humphrey did not poses a risk to the public.

While San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has been in favor of changing the money bail system, last month in a letter sent to the state Supreme Court, Gascon asked to allow trial courts to consider public safety when setting bail for a defendant, which he says the January ruling does not make clear.

“We’re firmly supportive of the elimination of money bail. I think the primary concern in this case is that you have a defendant who’s alleged to have targeted an elderly individual and now the court has chose to release him to a target-rich environment where he’ll be surrounded by elderly individuals,” District Attorney’s Office spokesman Max Szabo said outside of court.

“What we’re concerned about going forward, however, is that the Humphrey decision didn’t answer all of our questions about where do we go from here,” Szabo said. “It’s basically answered part of the equation but hasn’t really answered the full equation about how we move away from money bail safely.”

“We need to so in a way that’s thoughtful and doesn’t jeopardize public safety. That’s what we’re really concerned about,” he said.

Members of activist group Silicon Valley De-Bug chant in support of Kenneth Humphrey after he was granted release to a residential treatment center for seniors by Judge Brendan Conroy on Thursday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

-Bay City News reporter Daniel Montes contributed to this story

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