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Timothy Zerillo Quoted in Press Herald Article about Bail

From David Hench of the Portland Press Herald:

Bail too low in Maine Turnpike car chase, critics say

The driver remains in jail in lieu of the $250 bail, called a 'laughable' amount by a victim in the car he hit.
By David Hench dhench@mainetoday.com


A judge's decision to set bail at $250 for a man who is charged with trying to outrun police on the Maine Turnpike was met with outrage Tuesday.

Timothy J. Williams, 39, of South Portland was charged Friday with eluding police, after a high-speed chase that ended when he crashed into a car in which a Portland family was returning home from a Thanksgiving gathering.

Nobody was seriously hurt.

Williams' bail was set initially at $5,000, but a judge lowered it to $250 on Monday during Williams' initial appearance in Springvale District Court.

Many people were furious at the low bail, including Melissa Luetje, who was in the car that Williams hit, along with her husband and two young children.

"It seems to me, given his history, that just $250 is laughable," Luetje said.

She said Williams should be kept off the street, where he might do the same thing to someone else. "We're fine, but if anybody saw the car, you would never know how anyone walked away from that," she said.

The Portland Press Herald and Kittery police received calls Tuesday from many people who were upset about the bail set for Williams, who has an extensive criminal history in Massachusetts and a conviction for drug trafficking in Maine. His Maine identification card – his license was taken away – listed the Cumberland County Jail's address as his home, though police said he lives on Main Street in South Portland.

Court officials said Tuesday that bail is not intended as a punishment related to a particular crime. Instead, it is intended to ensure that a defendant appears in court and does not endanger the public.


"What are the least restrictive conditions that will ensure the defendant's appearance and the safety of the community?" said Timothy Zerillo, past president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


Zerillo was unfamiliar with Williams' case, but said that bail should be based on the individual circumstances of a defendant, and that media scrutiny can sometimes lead to unfairly high bail.

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