News 5 Investigates: City Policy Mix-Up Lets Repeat Offender Out Of Jail

A relatively new city policy may be responsible for letting a repeat-offender back out on the street prematurely.

19-year-old Johnny Vail was arrested twice in two weeks for carrying a pistol without a permit.

Officials tell News Vail should have never been released from jail to re-offend because he was already on probation for a 2016 conviction for shooting into an occupied vehicle. However in those proceedings Vail was granted Youthful Offender Status.

“There may have been some things in the process that probably didn’t work the way it should have worked,” said Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste. “For one reason or another, they were not able to see that he was actively on probation at the time for the Youthful Offender Status.”

Y.O.S. can make an offender’s records difficult to access even for law enforcement.

Normally there would’ve been time for someone to discover Vail was already on probation, but he was able to bond out in only about 3 hours, without even seeing a judge.

Recent changes by the city allow people to sign their own bond on certain offenses, in an effort to keep non-violent offenders from remaining in jail because they don’t have the financial means to bond out.

But in this case, Vail should have remained jailed because of his probation.

“I think that if you ask someone in municipal court that because this was a youthful offender case, it was not something that could have been seen by an officer or by anyone in metro jail,” said Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich.

We reached out the Mayor’s administration to ask if they would consider any changes to the policy, however, they would not comment on the matter.

Chief Battiste says the policy is well-intentioned but may require closer examination.

“There are some things that we need to sit down at the table and talk about how can change some things in the way we are doing certain things,” said Battiste. “Processes fail especially when you’re implementing new things. So as a result of that something happened in the flow of the process that didn’t get picked up the way it should have gotten picked up.”

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