I-TEAM: New mystery surrounding suspects arrested during violent protests downtown

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has uncovered new video showing suspects ordered released in just seconds at the first court hearings on charges tied to a night of rioting.

Last month, police arrested dozens of people for rioting and looting and violating a downtown curfew. A protest against police use of force and racism turned wild.

Now we’ve obtained video from Cleveland Municipal Court of some of the first hearings.

Many went before a judge, plead not guilty and immediately got a personal bond, a chance to go home with just a promise to come back to court for a hearing later. No questions asked.

We found that even though the court told us earlier workers there had not done the usual amount of background checking, in part, due to the numbers of suspects.

Yet the video shows suspects quickly released on the lesser charges. 

Investigators have raised questions about suspects arrested that night using false addresses. And the I-TEAM recently revealed even some of those facing felony charges using fake addresses.

*Read more investigative stories from the I-TEAM, here.*

 Still, on the video after the quick hearings, a judge can be heard saying, 

“‘Make sure you show up for court, OK?” And, “You’re going to be processed out today.”

The Cuyahoga County jail runs a check on every person arrested before anyone gets back on the streets. But that only shows if the person is wanted for other crimes anywhere else. If a suspect lies about his address, there’s a good chance it won’t be caught even with that records check.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor won’t be surprised if he has to hunt down suspects just released.

“No matter where they have moved, we will locate them, and we will hold them accountable,” said Michael O’Malley.

The I-TEAM also tried to talk to municipal court judges about letting the suspects go with no questions asked and just a promise to come back to court later. The court did not make anyone available for comment.

The next hearings will come up over the next several weeks.

*Read more about the violent protests, here.*

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