Hamilton County judge grants man release moments after saying he’d cut off ankle monitor

Hamilton County’s top prosecutor takes issue with the judge in the case.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 10:04 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Hamilton County judge is coming under fire from Prosecutor Joe Deters after granting a man release from jail with an ankle monitor that he promised during the hearing he would cut off.

That man, 36-year-old Vanton Foster, has already cut off his ankle monitor once. He was in court Friday before Judge Jennifer Branch for a probation violation when he told a probation officer that he would cut off the monitor again.

“This guy is going to hurt somebody,” Deters said Monday. “I mean, he’s on the path of really hurting somebody.”

Deters brought Foster’s name to the fore last year when Foster first cut his ankle monitor and Deters warned it was a warning sign of larger problems in the bail system.

Foster was convicted of domestic violence last May, his second such conviction, for hitting the mother of his child in December 2020. While out on an initial bond for those charges, he violated his release conditions four times by going where he wasn’t allowed, causing his bond to be revoked. He was subsequently let out on bond again, and again it was revoked after he violated his release conditions four more times.

Police arrested him in April 2020 for suspected OVI. He bonded out again but was confined to house arrest. He was then accused of assaulting a woman (not the mother of his child) in May 2020.

The same month, Branch found him guilty of the original domestic violence charge from December 2020. Transcripts from the courtroom show the prosecutor wanted to keep Foster in jail until his sentencing hearing because of the May 2021 allegation. Branch declined, and Foster bonded out with an ankle monitor, which he cut days before his June sentencing.

He was arrested in July 2021 and sentenced to three years probation and six months in a community-based correctional facility. He was released in February 2022.

On March 6, according to a police report, Foster punched the mother of his child. He was also charged with testing positive for marijuana, consuming alcohol and going where he was not allowed, all probation violations.

That latest domestic violence charge was dropped when a grand jury chose not to indict him.

In court for the other charges Friday, Branch granted him release with the ankle monitor that he threatened to cut off. Branch called him back in the courtroom after he said it. The probation officer recommended she send him to prison, and Branch acknowledged she believed in Foster’s threat, but Foster’s attorney argued it was an emotional response that he didn’t mean. Foster apologized in court, saying he’d rather have the ankle monitor than prison time. Branch granted him the request while making it clear that if he violated probation again, he would go to prison.

Deters objects with that decision.

“She has just decided that it’s not her role, I guess, to lock him up,” he said.

Bill Gallagher is an attorney who sits on the Bail Reform Commission.

“Looks like she and probation are attempting to change his behavior and are working towards doing that,” he said.

Gallagher argues it’s better for Foster to be out on probation, in constant contact with a probation officer and taking court-ordered anger management classes rather than being booked into the prison.

“He has eight children that he has to support,” Gallagher said. “Sending him to prison and them not being supported by him may cause greater harm than just locking him up.”

Foster is due back in court April 14 for another probation hearing.

Deters will join Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in Columbus Tuesday to talk about bail reform legislation.

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