Byers' Beat is a weekly column written by the I-Team's Christine Byers, who has covered public safety in St. Louis for 15 years. It is intended to offer context and analysis to the week's biggest crime stories and public safety issues.
Editor's note: This story contains a photo that may be upsetting to some viewers.
ST. LOUIS — An alleged domestic violence victim whose attacker was erroneously released recently got the attention of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones on social media after accusing Jones of having time to dance rather than address the needs of her constituents.
A little background:
Mac Payne was arrested Jan. 4 after police said he threw hot soup on his wife, scalding her.
Police can hold someone for 24 hours without charges being filed, and a pre-trial bond officer recommended Payne be held without bond until he could appear before a judge.
But he wasn’t. Payne tested positive for COVID-19 and was released.
A bunch of finger-pointing ensued.
Police union attorney Jane Dueker accused the Jones administration of having a policy of releasing COVID-19-positive arrestees regardless of whether warrants, charges or no-bond recommendations were in place as a way to keep the jail population low.
Jones' public safety director, Dan Isom, said no such directive exists and called Payne’s accusation “an aberration.”
“We do believe this was a poor decision in terms of allowing this person to leave,” he said. “This person should have been held; there is no policy suggesting this person should have been released.”
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office ultimately charged Payne with two counts of domestic assault, which are felonies.
Police re-arrested him.
Judge Annette Llewellyn then allowed Payne to post 10% of a $20,000 bail, which he did. She also required GPS monitoring of his whereabouts, put him on house arrest and ordered him to stay away from the victim and her address.
So, he has been released pending trial.
His alleged victim remains furious over his original release and still believes the Jones administration is to blame.
I’m not naming her because she is an alleged victim of an assault and asked me not to.
She found a video online of a woman dancing, thinking it was Jones, and posted it to her Facebook page Jan. 24.
“She has time to dance but not care about her constituents' needs,” the victim wrote. “Tishaura O. Jones can definitely go to the nearest hell. I said wtf I said,” tagging Jones' personal Facebook account.
Two days later, Jones responded: “Excuse me? That’s not me!! Now what you got to say?”
The victim wrote back: “Tishaura O. Jones, now we're cooking with fire! You can respond to this but not the fact that YOUR policies and YOUR judges are letting violent criminals out because of COVID. Meanwhile I'm over here fearing for my life because the man who threw hot soup on me is getting out of jail back to back. That’s what I have to say.”
Jones: “I don’t appoint judges. Learn how government works, then you can talk. #GurlBye”
Victim: “Tishaura O. Jones avoid the issue though. It doesn't help getting snippy with me. I sent a couple quite pleasant emails nearly begging you to assist with this person being locked back up."
The exchange goes on with Jones saying she didn't receive the email from the victim and continued to defend herself. The victim continued to accuse Jones' administration of mishandling the case and then dodging direct questions about it.
“Also I do know that everyone is presumed innocent until it's proven otherwise but my skin and my child's eyes saw what happened,” the victim wrote.
The photo below was posted to the social media account of the police union attorney, who posted it with permission from the victim.
Jones: “Again, I don’t control the courts. Or who gets prosecuted or let out of jail. You’re directing your anger at the wrong office. The circuit attorney controls who gets prosecuted. Judges are appointed by the Governor.”
An investigation into how Payne got released following his initial arrest is still underway.
Jones’ Public Safety Division is conducting it.
Resources for those experiencing domestic violence
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Safe Connections Crisis Helpline at 314-531-2003. You can also text that number from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, free of charge. https://safeconnections.org/
Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments (ALIVE) also has a crisis line at 314-993-2777 and they have a number for Franklin County at 800-941-9144. https://alivestl.org/
The Women's Safe House can be reached 24 hours a day at 314-772-4535. https://twsh.org/