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NJ Bail Reform: Twice-Freed Garfield Convict Charged With Attempted Murder

Andre Morales
Andre Morales Photo Credit: COURTESY: Passaic County Prosecutor

PATERSON, N.J. – New Jersey’s bail reform law continues to have repercussions: Two weeks after a judge released him from jail while awaiting sentencing in one gun case and a trial in another, a Garfield man shot someone, Passaic County authorities said.

Andre Morales, 29, was free on bail while awaiting a plea-bargained five-year sentence for carrying a gun when he was arrested on Feb. 27 in Paterson on charges of maintaining a drug production facility.

Once again, he was carrying a gun, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said Wednesday.

A hearing followed four days later, during which prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Justine Niccollai to keep Morales in the Passaic County Jail before his May 12 sentencing on the first gun conviction and a subsequent trial for the February arrest.

Already an ex-con, Morales was facing a possible life sentence based on the new case. He needed to remain behind bars, prosecutors argued.

Niccollai nonetheless released Morales to home detention, while requiring him to report to the local PreTrial Services office, Valdes said.

Six days later, Morales shot a man in the leg during an argument on a Paterson street, the prosecutor said.

Police arrested Morales last Friday on charges of attempted murder and weapons offenses. He remained held in the Passaic County Jail on Wednesday, records show.

He now has several court appearances stacked up.

One is a pre-trial detention hearing for the attempted murder charge, during which prosecutors will again argue that Morales remain behind bars.

Another is a revocation of pre-trial release for the Feb. 27 drug and gun arrest.

Niccollai is scheduled to conduct both hearings Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the May 12 sentencing remains scheduled before Superior Court Judge Adam E. Jacobs, also in Paterson.

Morales's plea deal requires him to serve 42 months in state prison before he will be eligible for parole, Valdes noted.

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