PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new law that went into effect July 1 allowed a man accused of bias crimes to walk free hours after police say he assaulted an Asian family over their heritage.
On July 2, Ryucherio Abe and his five-year-old daughter were hit on the head several times by a man who asked about their Asian heritage, according to the arresting documents.
Dylan Kesterson was arrested for the assault, booked under three bias crime charges, and released hours after the incident.
Kesterson did not have any prior convictions, and his charges meant that under changes made under Senate Bill 48, passed in 2021, he could not be held in custody.
The new law essentially went into effect July 1, one day before the assault, after the Oregon Chief Justice of the Supreme Court issued guidelines to local circuit courts on how to decide if someone should be held in custody before their trial. Multnomah County Circuit Court issued a similar order.
According to the bill text, the new law is intended to reduce the reliance on security payments, or bail, to be used to ensure someone appears for their next court date.
“The purpose of bail or security or actually just jailing someone is simply to ensure their future appearance,” said Josh Marquis, a former district attorney in Clatsop County.
Kesterson was arrested again after failing to appear to a court date Wednesday morning, which would have determined if he should be brought back into custody. Tuesday was the first day the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office says they had a chance to review Kesterson’s case, and brought a total of seven charges against him, including two counts of attempted assault and one charge of assault.
The Multnomah Couty Circuit Court says those charges would have been enough to hold him in prison, if that’s what he was charged with on Saturday.
Instead, a recognizance officer, not a judge, released Kesterson based on the new guidelines.
“That’s what recognizance release means: Basically, the person’s oath or word. They swear they’re going to show up,” Marquis said. “I don’t mean to be cynical, but I’ve seen thousands of people not show up again.”
According to court documents, Kesterson has few ties to Portland. He reported he has been homeless for about the past year, moving to Portland about a year ago after spending two years in Las Vegas.
Marquis believes that instead of also looking at community connections of someone who is accused of a crime, judges will be limited under the new guidelines on who can be held in custody.
“Judges really are going to have no choice in the vast majority of cases,” Marquis said.
Marquis is also worried that if a defendant does not show up to court for long enough, a judge would be forced to throw out the case over a lack of a speedy trial.