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DA Toney blames state for felon who got out on low bail, killed firefighter

Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 19:10:45-04

Fond Du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney is blaming the state for the county's decision to release a felon on $500 bail who went on to shoot and kill a firefighter.

According to court documents, prosecutors charged Ruben Houston III in late April 2019 with intent to sell narcotics.

He bailed out on May 3, and 12 days later he shot and killed an Appleton firefighter during a shootout with police.

Police shot Houston during that encounter and he died shortly after at a hospital.

"A judge, in 2011, allowed him [Houston] to legally change his name, effectively hiding his criminal history from the public and the court," said Toney.

Houston changed it by one letter, from Huston to Houston.

A quick search of Ruben Huston III (before the change) on state and federal databases reveals a long record of felony convictions, including armed robbery.

According to court records, before Houston III bailed out in 2019, the judge originally set bond at $5,000. The defense later requested a signature bond.

The prosecution said it still thought cash was appropriate, but did note that Houston III didn't have much of a prior record. Bond was subsequently lowered to $500.

Toney said the state needs a mechanism to see that criminal records carry over in the event of a name change.

"This is a hole in the system and a tragic constellation of events that resulted in a firefighter dying," said Toney.

The details of Houston's release comes months after Republicans criticized Milwaukee County DA, John Chisholm, for releasing Darrell Brooks on $1,000 bond.

Brooks is the man accused of driving his car into the Waukesha Christmas Parade, killing six people.

Toney is running for state attorney general this fall.

His Republican challenger, Adam Jarchow, responded to the news about Houston III:

"District attorneys have many tools to identify past criminal convictions and Eric Toney failed to use them, now blaming the judiciary in an absurd excuse that a career criminal can hide from past convictions by simply changing his name," said Jarchow.

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