- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Joseph C. Palczynski killed four people and kidnapped three before being shot to death by police last week. Already it is time for recriminations. Police are accused of all manner of misdeeds from trashing the houses they occupied during the 100-hour siege that led to his death, to bungling an attempted surrender by the killer. However, all this will amount to just sideshows compared to the culpability of those who allowed this ticking time bomb to walk the streets in the first place. They have much to answer for indeed.

Earlier this month, on March 5, Baltimore County District Court Commissioner Kim Gordon let longtime criminal Palczynski out of custody on $7,500 bond, after he had been charged with domestic violence yet again. And while the decision was clearly an appalling mistake, Baltimore County officials still tried to reason out the mess.

"Every case is individual. There are so many variables," said Michael McCampbell, a Baltimore County administrative judge who spoke on behalf of Mr. Gordon. But any armchair commissioner should be able to see that Palczynski's "variables" fell on the deranged side. This case had warning signs all over the place,

In 1988 Palczynski was convicted of battery on his girlfriend. While serving out his two years of probation for the attack, Palczynski was found guilty of a 1987 assault on a 16-year-old girl. He was sentenced to four years in prison. By 1991 Palczynski was back on the streets, then arrested and charged with battery for attacking his girlfriend at her high school. When taken to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, he escaped. The next year Palczynski went on the lam again after a domestic-violence charge. He holed up in his apartment for 16 hours before police tear gas forced him out. Upon surrender Palczynski was arrested for weapons charges and unlawful flight. In 1995 Palczynski broke four of his girlfriend's father's ribs. For the incident he received a 10-year suspended sentence, a five-year suspended sentence for obstruction of justice, and five years of probation.

How on Earth did this man get out of jail and all for the cost of a cheap, mid-sized getaway car? Why are killers like this allowed to slip through the cracks? Don't try to reason, though, with Mr. McCampbell. "I don't anticipate making any changes as a result of this incident, but we're always looking to better ourselves," he said.

Tell that to family and relatives of the four people who had to die because justice was blind to the point of willfulness in this case. If Mr. McCampbell anticipates no change, then we should probably expect more of the same: vicious criminals let out because the "variables" weren't right. Have we reached the point where victims of crimes like this are simply declared expendable?

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