Rontarus Washington Jr. doesn’t have to keep ankle monitor on, judge rules

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Rontarus Washington Jr. will be able to have his GPS ankle monitor removed, the judge ruled Monday.

Washington appeared overcome with relief, putting his head down on the table when Chief Judge James McCabria announced his decision.

He has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso, a woman who lived in the apartment down the hall from his. Exactly two years ago, On Oct. 4, 2019, a jury could not come to a verdict in the case, and a retrial has been pending since. (See links at the bottom to previous coverage.)

He spent more than five years and five months in custody before his bond was modified and a crowdfunding movement raised $50,000 cash plus collateral to bond him out. He’s had an electronic ankle monitor on since then — about 15 months.

His attorney, Melanie Morgan, of Morgan Pilate LLC, said Washington had made it to 23 court appearances in the time since he was released. She said there’s a stigma of wearing the ankle bracelet — going to fill out job applications, and at school, where he’s working to get his barber’s license, the bracelet raises questions of “What’s he done wrong? Why’s he got that?” Morgan said.

She said it wasn’t necessary for Washington to keep wearing the bracelet to ensure he makes his court appearances.

Deputy Douglas County District Attorney Joshua Seiden, who appeared via Zoom, argued that Washington’s charge is serious, but some defendants who are charged with nonviolent property crimes are also wearing ankle monitors as part of their bond conditions. He said Morgan hadn’t cited any special difficulty for Washington to keep the monitor on, and the state didn’t see any reason why it needed to be removed.

“We’ve allowed 15 months to be the proof of why it’s not necessary, and now we’d ask the court to remove it,” Morgan said in rebuttal.

Mackenzie Clark / The Lawrence Times Douglas County District Court Chief Judge James McCabria listens to arguments during a hearing for Rontarus Washington Jr. on Oct. 4, 2021.

McCabria said that Washington’s charge was serious, but since was released from the jail under “some rather unique circumstances,” he has followed every directive given to him.

“There’s been nothing to indicate to me that Mr. Washington is not willing to follow the orders of the court,” McCabria said. “In fact in some ways, I would say he’s been very diligent about that.”

Washington’s next court date is currently set for February 2022.

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More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. case


Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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