Campaign check: Loeffler claims Warnock ‘would release violent criminals’

The Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at a rally in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood on Dec. 15, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

The Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at a rally in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood on Dec. 15, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer /

The statement:

@ReverendWarnock wants to END cash bail. In other words — he would release violent criminals right back onto our streets,” Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Twitter, Nov. 24

What we found:

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s claims that her Democratic challenger in the U.S. Senate runoff, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, “would release violent criminals.” The claim is based, in part, on Warnock’s public support of an Atlanta city ordinance that passed unanimously in 2018.

The ordinance “eliminates the Municipal Court’s cash bond requirement for some low-level offenders who otherwise would sit in jail because they can’t afford bail,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

“Poverty is not a crime, we must end cash bail,” Warnock said on Twitter in October.

AJC Senate Watch: Checking candidates’ claims, answering readers’ questions

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fox News reported that Loeffler’s November tweet ignores that “the ordinance Warnock supported in Atlanta did not eliminate cash bail for felonies and other violent crimes.”

Atlanta’s Municipal Court, according to its website, handles cases of drunken driving, parking disputes, traffic and moving violations, disorderly conduct, minor drug offenses and panhandling, but not any felonies or violent offenses.

“A judge will have to set bail for defendants accused of violent offenses,” the AJC reported.

To support its claim, the Loeffler campaign cites Warnock’s calls for bail reform both in the city and nationally since at least 2018. Warnock has subsequently clarified that his support for ending cash bail in Atlanta applies only to nonviolent and misdemeanor offenders, as the AJC reported in 2018.

Loeffler’s campaign says her assertion is backed up by a January article in the Saporta Report, a business newsletter. The article states that “criminal suspects facing more than 2,000 felony charges,” including violent crimes, were released without bond Fulton County in 2019.

The article does not support Loeffler’s claim.

“This situation is not related to Atlanta’s bail reform policy, enacted in March 2018,” the article states.

Terrence Clark, a spokesman for the Warnock campaign, told The AJC that Loeffler’s assertions are an attempt to distract from her own record.

“People facing nonviolent misdemeanor charges who have not been convicted of a crime should not remain in jail simply because they can’t afford bail,” Clark said. “And, in the Senate, Reverend Warnock will continue the work he started with faith leaders in our state to pursue policies that strengthen Georgia communities through criminal justice reform.”

Loeffler’s campaign also points to reports of a sizable uptick in no-shows at Municipal Court since the cash bond ordinance was enacted. Neither report points to a concrete cause.

Supporters say cash bonds are necessary to keep the public safe and the justice system rolling.

Opponents of the practice, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, say it put low-income people at risk of losing jobs and homes while being held as suspects for low-level offenses. They note the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

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