Repeat offenders waste officers' time, taxpayers' dime

Repeat offenders waste officers' time, taxpayers' dime

In Plato’s Laws, the philosopher surmises, “There is no harm in repeating a good thing.” But clearly, that does not apply to criminal activity, a bad thing for both society and the lawbreakers themselves who, by law, face stricter penalties with every recurring infraction. Yet some Orange residents can’t seem to stop repeating their mistakes in spite of those potentially heightened consequences.

One of those offenders is 26-year-old Melody Johnson of Orange. Melody Johnson was arrested (again) June 22 and charged with criminal mischief and evading arrest after she reportedly smashed up a vehicle with a hammer. The incident is the latest in a long line of disturbances in which Johnson has been involved, according to reports from the Orange Police Department.

According to a police report, at about 6:07 p.m. OPD Officer Brice Due was dispatched to an apartment complex in the 100 block of Pine Street in Orange where he met with a man who reported a woman he knew as “Melody Turner” broke out the lights of his mother’s car with a hammer. He said the woman had also attempted to cause damage to his vehicle using the hammer, but when he confronted her, she walked into a nearby apartment. Officer Due says he observed the suspect standing on the front porch of an apartment at the complex. According to him, the woman started walking away when she saw him. He then followed her, saw her hiding behind the porch of an apartment in some vegetation and commanded her to stop. That’s when she started running through the middle of the complex, Due reports. He caught up with her when she eventually stopped running. After some struggle, Officer Due was able to hand¬cuff the woman, later identified as Johnson.

The victim positively identified Johnson as the culprit responsible for the damaged vehicle. She was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and evading arrest and taken to the Orange County Jail, where Due reports they “knew her on sight” – no surprise considering her extensive record. Johnson was previously arrested March 1, 2013 after police received a call from Velma Jeter Drive that she was causing a disturbance and refused to leave. And even that incident was not Johnson’s first run-in with the law – not even close.

According to data collected, Melody (Travone/Travon/Travonne) Johnson has a checkered criminal history going all the way back to July 7, 2005 when she was arrested by West Orange Police for Class A Assault causing bodily injury. She pleaded guilty to the charge and spent seven days in jail. In August 2012, Johnson was arrested and charged with second-degree felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution changed the charge to a Class B misdemeanor terroristic threat, to which Johnson pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to 50 days confinement.

Johnson reportedly also spit in an officer’s face while in jail after being arrested in October 2011 for disorderly conduct. That time, police were called because Johnson was standing outside of a bar screaming profanities. She has also been arrested for possession of marijuana, criminal trespass, theft, and resisting arrest.

A report from The Examiner’s archives reveals that June 2, 2013, Johnson was arrested for public intoxication after police received multiple calls regarding disturbances in which she was involved. OPD Officer Caleb Davis reported that upon his arrival, he observed a woman wearing a multi-colored dress shouting profanities at several other people. She was later identified as Johnson. The screaming woman had a fresh, “actively bleeding” cut on her right wrist, Davis reported, and the officer attempted to speak with Johnson. According to him, her speech was slurred to the point he was unable to understand what she was saying and she was unable to walk a straight line. Although Davis reported he could smell no alcohol emitting from the woman, he felt she was intoxicated on an unknown substance “to the point of being a danger to herself and others, as Johnson had caused several responses by the police within minutes due to her state… and causing disturbances.” Johnson was arrested and transported to the Orange Baptist Hospital for assessment of her injuries. She received jail clearance and was taken to the Orange County Jail for processing.

Months later, on Oct. 15, 2013, OPD Officers Tim Pruitt and Troy Tyson responded to a call in reference to a disturbance involving Johnson. While en route, officers were advised that “someone had a knife.” Both ambulance and fire units were dispatched due to a possible injury. Upon arrival at 6:43 p.m., officers reportedly observed “a crowd pointing at Johnson who was walking away” carrying a purple shirt wrapped in her left hand. Officers detained Johnson, but not before she threw the shirt to the ground, according to the report. Officers recovered the discarded shirt along with a large kitchen knife with blade longer than 8 inches. According to Pruitt, “Both the knife and the shirt had what appeared to be blood on them.” Johnson herself appeared to the officer to have suffered a nosebleed.

When officers spoke to people at the scene, they found out a neighbor called and told one of the residents of the apartment that Johnson had broken in through a bedroom window. The resident’s daughter went to check on the apartment and told police she discovered Johnson near a chest of drawers in the bedroom. Johnson then fled the apartment, came back, and exited again, this time taking a kitchen knife with her on her way out, witnesses told police. The resident’s daughter told police she saw Johnson use the knife to flatten the tires on her mother’s vehicle. When checking out the car, Pruitt reports he saw a pool of what appeared to be blood on the ground near the back of the vehicle, which had two flattened tires. He also reportedly found three gold-colored coins in the seat of the patrol car where Johnson was sitting. The victim identified the coins as coming from the burglarized residence.

Johnson was taken to the Orange County Jail and charged with second-degree felony burglary of a habitation, Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief and Class A misdemeanor unlawfully carrying a weapon. At the time, she also had a warrant for failure to appear.

Elmus Jamal Andrews Another repeat offender keeping OPD officers busy while padding his criminal record and costing taxpayers money is 29-year-old Elmus Jamal Andrews of Orange. Andrews was arrested June 20 for public intoxication in the 1300 block of Cordrey Avenue, his second PI in about a month. Officer Caleb Davis reports he saw a man stumble in front of his patrol vehicle. When he approached the man, verbally identified as Elmus Andrews, Davis observed that his speech was impaired and slurred when he spoke, he stumbled when walking and smelled of an “unknown sweet odor.” Davis believed Andrews to be intoxicated to the point he was a danger to himself and others. He was arrested and taken to the Orange County Jail for Public Intoxication, normally a Class C misdemeanor, which excludes jail time in lieu of fines. The charge was enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor due to Andrews’ multiple public intoxication convictions with¬in the last 12 months. Andrews faces up to six months in jail if convicted of the charge.

According to a database search, Andrews has spent time behind bars before for a probation violation resulting from a drug charge, and police reports from OPD reveal Andrews was arrested May 14 for public intoxication and failure to identify and on May 16 for burglary of a building. May 14, Officer Corey Foreman reportedly stopped Andrews for riding his bicycle in a roadway without using the required headlamp. When he spoke to Andrews, Foreman reports, he smelled an alcoholic beverage emitting from the man’s person and observed him to have glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and unsteady balance. He reportedly told the officer his name was Elis Jamal Andrus. Police later discovered his true identity and charged Andrews with failure to identify, public intoxication and for two outstanding warrants from West Orange Municipal Court.

Two days later, Andrews was in trouble once again when he was caught in the act by OPD officers who say he was attempting to steal from an Orange drugstore. According to a report from the Orange Police Department, officers responded to an alarm at Sholar’s Medicine Chest at 1301 West Park Ave. at close to 2 a.m. on May 16 Officers reported, “It was also apparent that the pharmacy had been entered through the ceiling from an adjacent hallway, inside the building.” While at the scene, OPD Officer Brice Due located a suspect attempting to evade on foot, according to police. The suspect identified himself as Andrews. Andrews was detained by officers, who then secured and reviewed video footage from drugstore security cameras. According to the report, officers were able to see Andrews enter the building. Andrews was arrested for burglary of a building and trans¬ported to the Orange County Jail.

A database search revealed Andrews has previous arrests for possession of a controlled substance, possession of dangerous drugs, and failure to identify, and has a conviction for felony possession of a controlled substance from a 2005 offense for which he received six years probation. After a probation violation, Andrews spent more than a year in the TDCJ unit in Huntsville.

OPD Captain Cliff Hargrave said in Andrews' case, he is on an official list of repeat offenders. “We have a list of people that we just keep arresting for being drunk,” he explained. “The Class B is as high as it enhances. A Class C offense is anything that the maximum penalty is a fine only. There’s no actual sentence on a Class C. With a Class B, they face up to 180 days in jail.”

Hargrave brought up another repeat offender whose charges were enhanced after multiple prostitution convictions. She now faces time in a state jail facility. “We recently arrested one woman for felony prostitution due to having five prior convictions for prostitution across several states, Annette Fulcher,” Hargrave related.

Fulcher was arrested during a prostitution sting conducted by OPD officers June 4. According to a police report from OPD, at about 11:30 a.m., an undercover officer made contact with a suspect, identified by police as 54-year-old Fulcher of Orange, who agreed to engage in sexual conduct with the officer for $20. She reportedly agreed to perform a “sexual act” for the fee. After making the agreement with the officer, police report, Fulcher entered the undercover officer’s vehicle and the two drove away. At some point they stopped the car and the prostitution arrest team took Fulcher into custody. She was taken to the Orange County Jail.

After checking Fulcher’s criminal history and discovering she had in excess of five prior convictions for prostitution, the charges against her were enhanced from a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of not more than 180 days in jail and/or a fine of no more than $2,000, to a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to two years in prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000, Hargrave reports.

He said while Andrews and Fulcher face enhanced charges, Johnson’s case differs. According to Hargrave, although Johnson has multiple arrests on her record, she has not been convicted of every offense. He said that’s because the victims don’t always pursue charges.

“The majority of the time, they don’t ever follow through with the charges, and it just goes away,” Hargrave said “Or, she’ll get arrested for something and it will be a plea bargain or something, but most of the time, and I’d say probably with her, most of the time you probably have people just not following through. You can only base (enhanced charges) on convictions. She could have a hundred arrests and no convictions.”

He said that is exactly what happened after John-son’s Oct. 15, 2013 arrest.

“The DA declined all the charges,” said Hargrave. “The burglary victim didn’t want to prosecute her. The criminal mischief victim refused prosecution. It was the same victim on both of them. She just refused prosecution. And, because of that, they apparently didn’t take the unlawful carrying of a weapon charge. They just refused it. That’s what happens.

“That happens so much,” he continued. “More than likely, if I get a case here and assign it to a detective, and the victim and the suspect know each other, that case will never get filed. They will eventually drop the charge. We actually have a way to close a case that’s called ‘lack of interest by victim.’ We do it all the time, every day. It’s so common. It’s one of the most common ways we close cases.”

Hargrave said it is important to remember that the majority of crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

“Ten percent of the people commit 90 percent of the crimes,” Hargrave surmised.

In order to keep these repeat offenders locked up and off the city streets, Hargrave says victims must follow through when filing charges.

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