SADDLE BROOK, N.J. – New Jersey’s new bail reform law enabled a career burglar to break into his second North Jersey church in less than two months – this one in Clifton after another in Saddle Brook, authorities said Saturday.
Ex-con Peter Heitmann, a 26-year-old transient repeat offender, already was charged with stealing a $15,000 chalice and donation box cash from a Clifton church when Saddle Brook police said he looted poor boxes at a local church after breaking a stained glass window worth more than $4,100.
Heitmann was released last November after spending more than two years in state prison for a Warren County burglary spree in 2013.
Saddle Brook police charged him in January with a Saddle River Road residential break-in that occurred the day after this past Christmas.
Heitmann was quickly released under New Jersey’s new bail reform law, which seeks to keep only the most dangerous criminals behind bars.
EDITOR'S NOTE: New Jersey's Bail Reform and Speed Trial Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, came about amid complaints that some defendants were unfairly being denied their freedom pending trial while more dangerous criminals who could post high bails were freed.
Judges in New Jersey now assess whether defendants go free or remain jailed based on the possibility that they'll skip court, pose a danger to the community or will try to intimated witnesses or victims.
Other considerations include how old the offender is, whether the crime was violent, past convictions and other pending charges.
He was arrested again earlier this month, this time by Elmwood Park police.
Heitmann gave court authorities in Hackensack the Saddle River Road home address as his own, Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler said. A judge ordered him released with a monitoring bracelet the next day.
Heitmann then tampered with the bracelet, Kugler said.
Heitman spent two days in the Passaic County Jail this past week before a judge freed him on Friday.
Kugler’s detectives then took Heitmann into custody, charging him with breaking into St. Philip the Apostle Church and looting the poor boxes this past Dec. 26 – the same day as the home burglary.
They also charged him with obstruction for providing a bogus address and contempt of court for tampering with the bracelet, the chief said.
A judge on Friday ordered Heitmann held without bail in the Bergen County Jail, where he remained Saturday, pending a bail hearing.
Clifton on Friday charged Heitmann with burglarizing St. Paul’s Church. They were eyeing him in a similar break-in at St. Brendan’s Church.
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