Darrell Brooks, center, is escorted out of the courtroom after making his initial appearance, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha, Wis. Credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP

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In early November, a woman filed a criminal complaint against Darrell Brooks, Jr., accusing him of intentionally running her over with his vehicle. The woman — who is the mother of Brooks’ child — had been in some kind of altercation with him earlier, after which Brooks followed her to a gas station parking lot, where he targeted her with his car. Apparently, the woman had tire marks on her pants and had several injuries. He was later arrested and charged in the case.

This was not the first time Brooks had been in trouble. No, he already had another open felony charge in Wisconsin, as well as a long and extensive rap sheet. In fact, he has been charged with crimes 10 times since 1999. Those arrests included felony aggravated battery, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of cocaine, receiving stolen property, and resisting arrest (several times).

In November of 2006 Brooks was convicted of statutory sexual seduction, after having sex with a 15-year-old girl, who he got pregnant. He was 24 years old at the time, and after his conviction, he was required to register as a sex offender.

In 2010, he was arrested on felony strangulation charges related to a domestic abuse, as well as a misdemeanor battery charge, and criminal property damage. Around the same time, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “during a traffic stop, a Milwaukee police officer jumped inside Brooks’ car, fearing he was about to be run over. The officer had pulled him over for not wearing a seat belt. As Brooks began to drive away while the officer was talking to him, the officer got inside the car and wrestled for control of the steering wheel.” He was ultimately arrested for violating his probation, resisting arrest, failure to appear, possession with the intent of delivering, and bail jumping.

Many more charges followed, most notably when, in 2016, he was arrested for not reporting himself as a sex offender in Nevada, leading to a warrant being issued for his arrest. He left the state, and the warrant is still active to this day.

Along this journey, it is remarkable to see just how charmed his criminal life has been. His record is littered with dropped charges, second chances, bail reductions, and generous “breaks” for a guy who clearly didn’t deserve them.

How then, was this guy on the street, free to run his vehicle into a crowded Christmas parade, killing six, including children, and injuring dozens of others?

After Brooks was arrested and charged for running the woman over with his car, prosecutors recommended (and got) a shocking low bail of $1,000 in the case. Brooks posted a bond, and walked out. In a remarkably obtuse bit of spin, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office is claiming that the bail was set “inappropriately low” given the nature of the charges.

No kidding.

“This office is currently conducting an internal review,” the office’s statement continued, “of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation in this matter in order to determine the appropriate next steps.”

The statement would ring a lot less hollow if the District Attorney wasn’t John Chisholm, who has been a progressive champion of the reform to the cash-bail system, arguing that it needed to be more lenient because it criminalizes poverty.

The year he was elected, Chisholm told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his reforms may have some potentially negative consequences. “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody,” he rhetorically asked himself. “You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”

In fairness to Chisholm, he was primarily talking about non-violent offenders in his pronouncements about bail, but at the same time he also seems to share the progressive aversion to jail in general, and his office ultimately made the low bail recommendation in this case, which suggests that a permissive attitude about bail and jail may have seeped into the office more broadly.

We’ll obviously learn more soon about what happened, and how it happened, but as Americans everywhere take note of the rising rates of violent crime in American cities and grow more apprehensive about it, their tolerance for leaders who take a soft position on crime will end, and end quickly.

Matthew Gagnon, Opinion columnist

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist...