PORTLAND, Ore. — On its Facebook page, the Portland Freedom Fund has posted photos of cash, checks and receipts used to bail inmates out of jail — with the promise they’ll return to court. A KGW investigation found that this often doesn’t happen and in some cases, defendants charged with serious offenses commit new crimes after being released.
The most vivid example involved Mohamed Osman Adan. The Portland man is accused of killing Rachael Abraham roughly one week after the Portland Freedom Fund bailed Adan out of jail.
KGW reviewed 67 cases where Portland Freedom Fund president Amanda Trujillo bailed out defendants from Multnomah County jail dating back to January 2020.
The records show Trujillo posted a total of $619,000 for those 67 defendants to walk free. Many of them faced serious charges including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.
The largest security posted, $212,000, went toward the release of Malik Muhammad, a man later sentenced to 10 years in prison for throwing Molotov cocktails at police and smashing windows during Portland’s racial justice protests.
KGW’s analysis of court records showed that many of those freed by the Portland Freedom Fund violated their release agreement or never returned to court. Thirty-nine of the 67 cases resulted in a bench warrant for their re-arrest — a 58% no show rate. It is far higher than the statewide average of 7% failure to appear for people who posted security on felony charges, according to data from the Oregon Judicial Department.
Former Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis argues that defendants may be less compelled to show up when a third-party group is posting bail — instead of friends, family or using their own money.
“With the system we’ve had, there’s been at least the social pressure of saying, ‘Look, grandma put up $10,000 or $30,000 dollars. You’ve got to show up. She could lose that,'” explained Marquis. “Now what we have is a situation where there are a number of groups that are saying, ‘We will put up the money and we frankly don’t care whether you show up in court or not.”
Court records suggest that probation officers have grown frustrated with several defendants allowed to go free while awaiting trial after being bailed out of jail courtesy of the Portland Freedom Fund. Records describe how defendants removed GPS ankle monitors, violated curfew or simply couldn’t be located.
In some cases, KGW found defendants bailed out by Portland Freedom Fund committed new crimes shortly after being released.
One man allegedly threatened a construction worker at the Multnomah County Courthouse with a hammer just weeks after the Portland Freedom Fund posted his bail.
In another example, a defendant was charged with threatening people at two different Portland restaurants with a stick and smashing a window. He was bailed out by the Portland Freedom Fund on four different occasions. While out on the street awaiting trial, court records suggest the defendant chased a random couple with a knife yelling, “I’m going to get you” and “I’m going to kill you" — followed by a racial slur. There’s now a warrant out for the man’s arrest.
On its Facebook page, the nonprofit explains the Portland Freedom Fund "seeks to limit the number of persons held pretrial solely for inability to pay the bail as determined by the court. Fulfilling requests for bail assistance are made on an individual basis with a focus on reducing harm.”
Retired Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Edward Jones argues it is unfair to criticize the Portland Freedom Fund for which defendants are released or the outcome of their cases.
“How accurate do they have to be? 100% accurate?” asked Jones. “They have to be 100% accurate in guessing which guys are going to be dangerous — when a judge can’t do it?”
The retired judge said the bail systems itself should be the focus, and that it needs reform.
“The whole bail process is not a satisfactory way of thinking about release because how much money you have or how much money your friends have doesn’t tell me anything about how dangerous you are,” explained Jones.
Court records indicate several of the defendants bailed out of the Portland Freedom Fund appeared in court as required, and at least two defendants had their charges dismissed.
The Portland Freedom Fund is not the only third-party group bailing people out of jail, but after the tragic death of a Portland woman, the nonprofit has drawn greater scrutiny of its operation and who it’s paying to set free.