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December 17, 2001


The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Chairman

Congress of the United States

House of Representatives

Committee on the Judiciary

2138 Rayburn House Officer Building

Washington, D. C. 20515-6216


In Re:  Written Testimony from The Honorable Paul H. Thomson, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Winchester, Virginia, on the Issue

of Department of Justice Immigration Detention Policies.


Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner:


My name is Paul H. Thomson and I am the prosecuting attorney for the small city of Winchester, Virginia.  I prosecuted the case of Commonwealth of Virginia v. Edward Nathaniel Bell, Winchester Circuit Court Docket No. 99-CR-478, Virginia Supreme Court Appellate Record No. 011777(2001).  In this case, the defendant was sentenced to death on May 31, 2001, for the murder of Winchester Police Officer Sergeant Rick Timbrook while he was in the line of duty.  The facts of this case demonstrate in stark terms the need for immigration detention reform.


On October 30, 1999, Winchester Police Officer Sgt. Rick Timbrook was shot in the face at close range and killed by resident alien Edward Nathaniel Bell as Timbrook attempted to arrest him.  At the time of the killing, Bell was at liberty on a $3,500 bond pending a removal proceeding in the Immigration Court, Arlington, Virginia.  The I.N.S. had arrested, charged and detained Bell on the grounds that he violated Section 237(a)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (as amended) in that he had been convicted of a weapons offense in Winchester on August 26, 1997.


The defendant Eddie Bell was admitted into the United States of America as a resident alien in 1992 from his native country of Jamaica.  On May 16, 1997, while living in Winchester, Eddie Bell was caught in possession of a concealed and loaded handgun by the very officer he murdered two years later - Sgt. Rick Timbrook.  Bell was convicted of this offense in Winchester Circuit Court on August 26, 1997.  Bell was arrested by I.N.S. agents on September 17, 1998, and was detained on $6,500 bail pending removal and deportation proceedings.  Bell requested that the Immigration judge reduce his bail and it was reduced to $3,500 on October 8, 1998.  He made bond at this amount and he was released on October 9, 1998.


Bell began fighting the removal proceedings.  He obtained several continuances from the Immigration Court throughout 1998 and 1999.  During the pendency of these proceedings, not only did Bell shoot and kill Sgt. Timbrook, but he also committed other crimes that he failed to reveal on a subsequent application to become naturalized.  Bell was scheduled for a final hearing in Immigration Court on November 2, 1999, several days after he killed the police officer.


Based on my extensive experience with this case, I came to the firm conclusion that any alien caught committing a weapons offense as defined in Section 921(a) of Title 18, United States Code, should be detained without benefit of bond during removal proceedings.  Further, these removal proceedings could be accellerated on the Court docket for speedy disposition of cases involving dangerous resident aliens.  Dangerous criminals like Bell have no business being released.  They have a great motive to seek revenge as happened here, or to run.


Obviously, tougher pre-trial detention and release requirements would have seriously impaired Bell’s ability to greatly harm law enforcement officers and the community.  However, detention eliminates all the risk of harm and would save precious I.N.S. resources.  For example, releasing a defendant on bond pending removal presents I.N.S. agents with the difficult task of tracking down potentially dangerous criminals who are motivated to kill government agents associated with their deportation proceedings.  Also, the Immigration pre-trial supervision of Bell was non-existent.  There was no home electronic monitoring or other meaningful intensive reporting requirements or curfew.  The time of the murder was midnight on October 30, 1999.  At this time, Bell was on the street in Winchester driving a stolen car, in possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute it, and in possession of a handgun with extra ammunition.  Further, Bell was well known to constantly display his hatred towards police and Sgt. Timbrook in particular.


In conclusion, my narrow recommendation is that federal law be changed so aliens who are charged with committing weapons offenses be immediately detained and they should not be afforded bail pending deportation hearings.  In the alternative, federal law should provide for a strong presumption of no bond unless and until a thorough backgound investigation is completed by I.N.S. agents in cooperation with local law enforcement.  Thank you.







Paul Hampton Thomson

Commonwealth’s Attorney for the

City of Winchester, Virginia