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Milwaukee activist granted release on bond despite witness intimidation claims

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 09:02:14-04

A Milwaukee community activist will be free on bond while he awaits his trial.

Vaun Mayes is charged with attempting to firebomb a Milwaukee Police Station days after the Sherman Park violence in August 2016. Federal prosecutors said he should not be allowed out of jail because he is a danger to the community and tried to intimidate witnesses.

Mayes sat quietly in leg shackles in front of a packed courtroom of supporters Thursday afternoon. One person shouted "We love you" to him. Others could be heard quietly crying.

That changed to applause when the judge allowed Mayes to bond out.

"I think the community as a whole exhaled and took a deep breath," said Mayes' friend Samuel Alford

This comes despite Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Ladwig arguing Mayes is a danger to the community. 

"The defendant may be involved in the intimidation of its vulnerable witnesses," said Ladwig in court.

In the days after the violence in Sherman Park, witnesses told federal agents that  Mayes made Molotov cocktails that he and others planned to throw into the Milwaukee Police District 7. At the last minute, he stopped the plan when too many people found out.

Ladwig said within the last three months Mayes talked to a witness who was helping investigators. Another witness was hit in the head and had their phone broken by an associate of Mayes.

"What do you have to say about the potential for witness tampering that the government talked about and that he would be a risk when he was out in the community?" asked reporter Rebecca Klopf

"The government provided nothing other than barebones allegations," said Robert LaBell, Mayes' defense attorney.

Mayes will be allowed to continue running his community program in Sherman Park. The judge ordered Mayes not have contact with any potential witnesses. That drew laughter from some supporters. 

"There is two alleged witnesses who we don't know who is whoever," said Alford. "So how can you not speak to somebody who you don't know who they are."

Prosecutors are appealing Mayes' release, but if that is denied he could be out as early as Friday.