If Preston Oates is abiding by the terms of his release from jail on manslaughter charges, then he should have no problem with electronic monitoring of his whereabouts.
And it should make no difference to Oates or his attorneys that the monitoring is done by a contractor hired by the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office. Assistant Solicitor Sean Thornton asked for that, but Judge Cordell Maddox Jr. said he "didn't care" who did the monitoring and gave defense attorneys 30 days to get it into place.
It's safe to say people in this community would have more confidence in the monitoring if it were overseen by this particular company, which has a track record of doing the job with a great degree of precision.
The Solicitor's Office wanted Oates under electronic monitoring or back in jail until he is tried for fatally shooting Carlos Olivera after an argument over a parking boot on Olivera's vehicle on Christmas Eve 2010.
Oates has been out of jail since Aug. 31, 2011, on a $200,000 bond. Terms of his release included that he be confined to a relative's house in an undisclosed location, except to get medical treatment, appear in court or meet with his lawyers. Given the volatility of this case in the community and Oates' behavior in jail, the terms were prudent.
The Solicitor's Office said Oates had not met those terms, based on information gathered by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office in an investigation launched after a fake dating website profile of Sheriff P.J. Tanner appeared online.
Oates' attorneys argued he should be free to work and travel while they appeal the charges against Oates. He has been required to make weekly calls to his bail bonding company, but hasn't been under direct supervision. The bail bondsman has said that without electronic monitoring, he had no way to know whether Oates was where he was supposed to be when he checked in. That was grossly insufficient oversight.
The decision to put Oates under electronic monitoring is the only way to be sure he's following the terms of his release.
The judge also is now allowing him to work. Given the presumption of innocence under which our judicial system works and the length of time it's taking his case to work through that system, the decision is understandable.
Oates is appealing an earlier ruling that he is subject to prosecution. He had claimed self-defense under the state's "Castle Doctrine," which was expanded in 2006 to include a business or vehicle as places where one could be granted immunity for defending yourself or others from harm. The Solicitor's Office maintains that any threat to Oates had ended by the time he shot Olivera.
The appeal is in the hands of the state Attorney General's Office, which earlier this year said it had not had time to prepare for a hearing before the appellate court.
Most puzzling is Judge Maddox's decision to allow Oates' attorneys to ask a judge to reconsider the electronic monitoring requirement in 120 days. Electronic monitoring is needed to be sure Oates abides by the terms of his release. His doing so during those 120 days most likely will be a result of the monitoring, not evidence that it isn't needed.
It should stay in place.