Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Scottie Scheffler got out of jail in 72 minutes — did he receive special treatment?

By admin Jun1,2024

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Seventy-two minutes.

That’s how long the world’s No. 1 golfer, Scottie Scheffler, spent in downtown Louisville’s jail on May 17 before being released without bail, in time to make his tee time in the second round of the PGA Championship.

The whirlwind predawn arrest just outside Valhalla Golf Club captured international headlines and again put the beleaguered Louisville Metro Police Department under the microscope, with critics railing against Scheffler’s felony charge of assaulting a police officer — which can bring years in prison — and questioning whether this was another case of police overreach.

But the golfer’s speedy release from custody — and the lack of bail — has rankled observers of the justice system in Louisville, who say his situation was handled differently than cases where others find themselves in trouble with the law.

“This case is a perfect microcosm of how unjust our system is: There’s a system for the rich, and there’s a system for the poor,” said Kungu Njuguna, a policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky and a former prosecutor for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.

What happened after Scottie Scheffler arrived at Louisville’s jail?

According to a “Conditions of Release and Judicial Decision” form provided to The Courier Journal by the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk, Scheffler was booked into LMDC at 7:28 a.m., a little more than an hour after his arrest about 19 miles away.

Within eight minutes of his booking, he was interviewed, the record shows.

And at 7:58 a.m., exactly 30 minutes after Scheffler was booked, District Court Judge Sara Nicholson approved his release without bail, according to the document. The only conditions placed on Scheffler were that he not violate any local, state or federal laws and that he make all court appearances.

Forty-two minutes after Nicholson’s decision, at 8:40 a.m., Scheffler was released, according to Maj. Jason Logsdon, a Metro Corrections spokesman.

At some point while he was incarcerated, Scheffler was searched, and he changed into an orange jumpsuit, which he was wearing in his mugshot.

2024 PGA Championship2024 PGA Championship

A booking photo of Scottie Scheffler by Louisville Metro Police after a traffic incident before the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. (Photo courtesy Louisville Metro Police via USA TODAY NETWORK)

What regularly happens when someone is sent to Louisville’s jail?

When people are arrested by LMPD, they are usually first transported to Metro Corrections’ sally port on Cedar Street, where police cruisers can pull directly into the building.

After their arrival at LMDC, “a pat search and body scan are conducted, they are dressed out into a jumpsuit, fingerprints and a booking photo are taken,” Logsdon said in an email to The Courier Journal.

Pretrial Services, an arm of the court system, interviews the defendant and makes a recommendation to a judge on whether they should be released within 24 hours of their booking. Pretrial Services conducts an assessment of how much of a flight risk the person is and how likely they are to offend again if released.

Defendants accused of non-sexual, non-violent misdemeanors with a low or moderate risk score can be released immediately.

All other cases must be presented to a judge, who has the ability to release the defendant or set bond and other conditions for release. Those cases are typically presented to a judge in a phone call by Pretrial Services staff members, who describe the charges, the police account of the arrest, the risk assessment and Pretrial Services’ recommendation.

The judge does not have to follow that recommendation, however.

A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts told The Courier Journal that Pretrial Services risk assessments are confidential and could not be provided to a reporter.

At LMDC, the defendant also meets with a registered nurse and a mental health professional for screenings, Logsdon said.

Was Scottie Scheffler treated differently?

Close watchers of the criminal justice system in Louisville told The Courier Journal Scheffler’s quick release — and the lack of bond — was unusual.

“I venture it’s very rare that you’ve ever seen an individual in Jefferson County get charged a felony — let alone a violent felony offense — against a police officer and that individual not have a bond be set … or that they got out of jail in under two hours,” said Njuguna, the ACLU of Kentucky policy strategist. “That is probably unprecedented. And I think clearly shows that this golfer got special attention.”

Metro Councilwoman Shameka Parrish-Wright, who previously worked for The Bail Project, which paid bail for low-income people in Louisville, also found the situation atypical.

“It still takes anywhere from two to four hours — and really two to six — for a normal person to get out of jail. Even if they were arrested (and) bond was set really quick, it would still take that amount of time,” she said.

Parrish-Wright was arrested in 2020 amid protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Charged with felony first-degree rioting, and misdemeanor level unlawful assembly and failure to disperse, she said she was held at LMDC for more than 13 hours.

Those charges were eventually dropped, with County Attorney Mike O’Connell saying there was not enough evidence to show Parrish-Wright and others were involved in “tumultuous and violent conduct.”

“I hope there’s a good outcome for Mr. Scheffler, but I just want him to know there’s many Kentuckians who didn’t have that opportunity to navigate and just say it was a ‘hectic’ week,’” she said.

Given the seriousness of the charges and the fact that Scheffler is not from Louisville, local civil and defense attorney Shaun Wimberly found it “strange” how Scheffler was released.

“That right there raises the flight-risk indication,” Wimberly said. “He is not even a resident, nor has any ties to the city of Louisville or Jefferson County, where the alleged crime was conducted.”

The Courier Journal emailed Nicholson, the judge who released Scheffler, asking for comment on her decision, but did not receive a response.

Instead, retired Jefferson County Circuit Court judge McKay Chauvin, who is now the Jefferson County Court Administrator, responded to The Courier Journal’s inquiry by email, saying it had been passed to him by Nicholson, who he said was unable to comment under the code of judicial conduct.

“While no one gets special treatment because of their celebrity, a judge has the obligation to take into account how the distraction generated by that ‘celebrity status’ could affect the orderly conduct of the court’s business and delay the process for everyone else appearing on the court’s docket that day,” Chauvin said.

He added it was “routine for people who are clearly not a flight risk or a danger to the community to be released on bond prior to arraignment court.”

Scheffler’s attorney, Steve Romines, did not respond to a Courier Journal inquiry about his client’s speedy release on Tuesday, saying instead that he will hold a press conference about the case on Wednesday.

On the day of the arrest, Romines told WHAS-TV his job “is to get my clients released as quickly as possible, and that’s what I was doing. I’ve had it happen many times before.”

To defense attorney David Mour, who represented a number of arrested protesters in 2020, the Scheffler episode is indicative of an unfair legal system.

“It’s all across America, it’s not just Louisville, Kentucky, but we have a legal system for rich white folk, and we have a legal system for everybody else, which includes Black and brown people and lower class white folk,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. And it’s unfortunate.”

University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson said the Scheffler case “doesn’t seem like it was handled properly at virtually any stage” from the arrest by LMPD to how Scheffler was released.

“How it was handled and how quickly he was released, given what was known to the judge at the time, raises serious questions about how that happened and why that happened and whether it was equal justice compared to how other cases are handled at the courthouse,” he said.

“If he was treated the way he should have been, then why aren’t other people treated that way?” Marcosson asked. “With expeditious processing, quickly released… If that was appropriate, why isn’t appropriate for a lot of other people going through the process?”

Scheffler is set to be arraigned on Monday morning.

On Tuesday, the office of O’Connell — the county attorney and current prosecutor in the Scheffler case — said O’Connell would “address the Court regarding” the Scheffler case on Wednesday.

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