It's the question people have been asking since we first learned about the man who shot and killed Auburn police officer Ronald Tarentino early Sunday morning: How was Jorge Zambrano even out on the street? Over the course of 18 years, he's served time in prison at least twice and he's appeared in court 27 times, most recently last week. Charges against him have included assault and battery, drug trafficking, carrying a gun with a silencer and assaulting a police officer, twice.
This past January, prosecutors say Zambrano was pulled over, grabbed an officer and tried to pull him into his car, where there was a large pit bull. Then, he was arrested in February for domestic violence, posted bail of just 500 dollars. So how this allowed to happen? Former Cambridge Police Officer & Assistant United States Attorney, Natashia Tidwell, and Retired Superior Court of Massachusetts Judge Isaac Borenstein joined Jim on Tuesday night to discuss.
Borenstein didn't agree with Jim that the system failed Officer Tarentino. "Frankly, the law says, we don't hold people in the United States in preventative detention," he said. "That's the law." Borenstein said that there are many details that we don't know about the case, including if the allegations are true. "I understand the desire to pin accountability on someone," he said. Tidwell said that several things were worth unpacking in the case, firstly, the assault on the police officer in January, for which he got mental health counseling.
Borenstein explained that this was not the only case that day in January, and that assault and battery against a police officer happens every day. "One of my disappointments is that we dont take a case like this and deconstruct it, and it needs to be. We need to look at, did something happen wrong here, and what did we miss. So next time we don't miss it," said Borenstein.
Tidwell discussed the debate about discretion within the system. "If we give everyone all this discretion to make these decisions at the point of entry, when people like Jorge Zambrano come in, if we give them that, we have to trust them that they're going to make the right decision and allow for the fact that sometimes things like this will happen," she said. And she argued the other side: "we can go to a system where the judges don't have any discretion." She explained that in this system, if you're arrested and have a pending case, you're automatically held, and there tends to be a disproportionate affect on certain segments of the population. So, she determined, "you have a system where you allow for discretion and these things happen."
To wrap up the interview, Borenstein reiterated his point that "we don't spend enough time on each case, or each individual."