Push made for change in evaluation of parolees after repeated crimes
HOUSTON – A Houston-area state representative and victims’ rights advocates are pushing for a change in the way the state evaluates certain parolees. Specifically, a bill filed by Rep. Sarah Davis would require the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to take a harder look at why thousands of parolees who commit new crimes do not have their parole revoked.
Davis said the impetus for the bill was the death of Peter Mielke, 19, who was killed during a robbery of Reginelli’s Pizza in Bellaire in February 2016.
“He chose to use the words, 'Your son has been brutally murdered,'” Dana Mielke said in reference to the sheriff’s deputies who informed her of her son’s death. “I did not want to know why he chose 'brutally.'”
Kiara Taylor, 27, is charged with Mielke’s murder. At the time of his arrest, Taylor was on parole.
“I had to go back to that word, 'brutally,' and that's where the fight began,” Dana Mielke said.
State records show Taylor went to prison in 2010 for felon in possession of a weapon. Prior to the conviction, Taylor had been convicted of unauthorized use of a vehicle and attempted escape. Taylor got out of prison on the weapons charge in less than three years and was supposed to be on parole until October of 2017.
Since his release, Taylor racked up more convictions. In 2013, Taylor was convicted of burglarizing two buildings and failure to identify himself to a peace officer. He was sentenced to a year in state jail.
However, Taylor’s parole was not revoked, even though a parole officer noted, “Offender is a threat to public safety,” in a violation report, and a hearing officer recommended revocation. Revoking Taylor’s parole could have sent him back to prison to finish the remainder of his sentence on the weapons charge.
After his release from state jail, Taylor was sent to an Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) and then a halfway house. State records show Taylor ran away from the halfway house until his arrest in 2015 on charges of evading arrest.
Again, Taylor’s parole was not revoked. Taylor was sentenced to 45 days in jail on the evading charge and time in an ISF after his release. Within days of leaving the ISF, Peter Mielke was shot and killed.
“You keep giving him chances. Like, what else do you need?” Dana Mielke said. “Five minutes, two minutes, just look at the case. Really, just look at it.”
State records show Taylor’s lack of parole revocation due to new convictions is not isolated. Data from the state since fiscal year 2010 shows that an average of more than 6,300 parolees each year are convicted of new crimes, yet their parole is not revoked.
“It simply defies logic,” said victims’ rights advocate Andy Kahan.
Kahan shared another example with KPRC. In July of 2016, Kumba Sesay was found dead in a southeast Houston ditch. Leroy Stoots, 44, is charged with Sesay's murder. Stoots had been to prison once before for murder and got out on parole. While on parole, Stoots was convicted of drug possession and cited for a handful of parole violations, yet his parole was never revoked, even though, at one point, a hearing officer recommended revocation.
“For the safety of every person in the state of Texas, we need to know what's going on,” Kahan said.
Davis hopes her bill will answer some of these questions.
“I was furious. I thought, 'There's got to be something I can do,'” Davis said in reference to Peter Mielke’s death happening in her district.
During a hearing before the House Corrections Committee in April, Davis was equally blunt when discussing the topic.
“There is a problem with the system and people are dying because of it,” Davis said.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles presiding officer, David Gutierrez, testified at the hearing data is not collected on a statewide basis as to whether parolees’ convictions for new crimes involve felonies or misdemeanors. Gutierrez testified that information is only known at the time of an offender’s parole revocation hearing.
“This bill is going to force them to capture that data and do a report to the Legislature,” Davis said during an interview with Channel 2 Investigates.
At different points during the hearing, Gutierrez said, “We certainly welcome any new information that could help the Board make better decisions.”
Officials with the Board of Pardons and Paroles declined KPRC’s request for an on-camera interview, or to answer specific questions about Taylor’s and Stoots’ cases.
In an email to KPRC, a Board spokesperson wrote, “In making a decision on violations of supervision, a parole panel carefully reviews the totality of information available. Part of the information provided include(s) recommendations from a parole officer, hearing officer and hearing analyst. A graduated sanction approach is often utilized and can include continuing the offender on parole supervision under the same or modified terms of release, placement in an ISF, placement in a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF), or revocation.”
Davis said beyond capturing the data, she wants the Board to use the information to reassess how it evaluates these cases.
“If they don't, then the Legislature will be back in two years and we can make some changes then,” Davis said.
Davis’ bill passed the House, but never found footing in the Senate, and died. Davis promises to take up the issue next session and Kahan is pushing the parole board to make changes on its own.
UPDATE TO ORIGINAL STORY:
State Representative Sarah Davis is hoping to revive this bill during the legislature’s special session. Davis sent a letter Tuesday to Governor Greg Abbott asking that her bill be added the session’s agenda.
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