Judge Melissa Loehr
Judge Melissa Loehr

Two of the three Peekskill residents arrested and charged with second-degree felony robbery and second-degree felony assault stemming from a Sunday robbery were released on their own recognizance despite the fact that, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, the assistant DA requested bail to be set at $25,000 for the pair. A third suspect was held on $2,000 bail due to an unrelated domestic violence charge, despite the fact that the DA had asked for bail to be set at $30,000.

The suspects are Essa and Ishamail Mcgougain, both 21, and Akeem Joseph, 20. The Mcgougains were set free while Joseph was held on $2,000 bail.

While he would not comment directly on this case, Robert Wolf, a spokesman with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, described the bail process.

“Speaking in general terms and having nothing to do with this particular case, in court, there is such a thing as a bail application,” Wolf told The Peekskill Post Tuesday morning. “At the time of bail application the judge turns to defense counsel and asks for any mitigating reasons why bail should be either low or they should be ROR. Then the judge turns to our prosecutor to hear whether there are certain circumstances the judge needs to be aware of that would impose a high bail or that the suspect needs to be remanded. So, at the end of the day, the judge is going to hear both sides and then make a decision. Past that, there is nothing more for us to say.”

Peekskill Chief of Police Eric Johansen says that the three individuals arrested in this case are also suspected in being involved in other recent crimes, including the violent attack on Orchard Street that sent a Hispanic male to the hospital in critical condition Friday night.

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Suspects Ishmail Mcgougain, Essa Mcgougain and Akeem Joseph (Mugshots courtesy of Peekskill PD)
Suspects Ishmail Mcgougain, Essa Mcgougain and Akeem Joseph (Mugshots courtesy of Peekskill PD)

At Monday morning’s Common Council work session, Johansen addressed the council about the matter. Of particular note was an exchange with Mayor Frank Catalina, a Republican, and later, Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie, a Democrat. The discussion is below, with Johansen’s words in italics and McKenzie’s in bold.

Johansen: Over the weekend we had at least one robbery and another assault that appear to be related. Officers on Saturday night were able to make three arrests, charging the individuals with robbery in the second degree.
Catalina: Is that a misdemeanor?
Johansen: Felony
Catalina: What degree felony?
Johansen: C
Catalina: Oh, wow. A C felony?
Johansen: Yes
Catalina: And what kind of prison term does that subject a person to?
Johansen: Off the top of my head, I am not sure but it is substantial.
Catalina: Three and a half to 15.
Johansen: Three and a half to 15.
Catalina: Was this a hate crime?
Johansen: That I don’t know. The follow up to the case is still being conducted. We are trying to put together some other cases that fit the MO of the arrest that was made. All of that is being looked into.
Catalina: How long after the incident was it before the detectives made an arrest?
Johansen: Actually, on Friday detectives were in. They didn’t make the arrest Friday. [On Sunday], arrests were made by patrol officers who have a sharp eye and did a commendable job locating the individuals who matched the description a short distance away from where the incidents took place.
Catalina: Do we know if the defendants had prior records?
Johansen: I don’t know that at this point.
Catalina: So it’s good that they made a quick arrest and got the perpetrators off the streets.
Johansen: Yeah, these are dangerous individuals who committed this crime and, like I said, it is commendable to the officers who made the arrests and got these guys off the streets.
Catalina: You characterized them as dangerous. The residents should rest peacefully knowing they are off the streets, right?
Johansen: Well, they are no longer incarcerated.
Catalina: Oh, they posted bail?
Johansen: There was no bail set.
Catalina: That’s unbelievable. I got the email and was shocked there was no bail set. Was bail requested by the District Attorney’s Office?
Johansen: I believe so.
Catalina: Do you know what the amount was?
Johansen: $25,000
Catalina: They requested $25,000 and there was no bail?
McKenzie: What’s all this about released without bail? This is still being prosecuted, correct?
Johansen: Yes, it still will go through the process, correct.
Catalina: So, they get what’s called a [Desk Appearance Ticket], right?
Johansen: No, they were just—it’s called an ROR, released on their own recognizance. When the court releases them there is no DAT. They are just given another court date that they have to appear.
Catalina: Wow. You sure about that?
Johansen: Yes
Catalina: Oh my God. What judge did this?
Johansen: Judge Loehr
Catalina: Melissa Loehr?
Johansen: I don’t know her first name.

After the exchange, McKenzie, who said she spoke with Johansen about the matter prior to Monday morning’s meeting, stressed that she did not want politics to play a role in how the city addresses and handles the situation. Judge Loehr, a Democrat, was confirmed by the Common Council last year on a partisan vote.

When contacted Tuesday morning, Judge Loehr said that as a judge, she is unable to comment or get involved in politics. A voicemail was left for the judicial press representative.

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