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Gene Kennedy Reporting A paperwork error led to the release of a man accused of attacking his wife, and for a while today, his victims were in a state of panic.
Russell Maez spent a month behind bars for trying to assault his estranged wife and her boyfriend. In that time he made a plea deal, and the courts agreed to let him out for a period of time before getting sentenced.
But there were conditions of his release, and victims in the case are upset those conditions were not completely honored.
Russell Maez was supposed to stay behind bars an additional 72 hours: a plan to protect his estranged wife.
"So that she could relocate to feel safe and no one would know where she was," explained the victim's daughter-in-law, Kim Maez.
Prosecutor Michaela Andruzzi said, "The judge did order it in open court. That was verified in the stipulation, but it wasn't communicated to the jail."
When the defense attorney wrote the order of release, he only mentioned the protective order, not the 72-hour hold. The judge signed it, and Russell Maez got out immediately.
Kim Maez's mother-in-law was stunned. "She's scared to death of this guy. She fears for her life. She looks over her shoulder," Kim Maez said.
The prosecutor made arrangements to find a safe place for the victim. During his time out, Russell Maez didn't hurt anyone. "We have safeguards in place, and in this case those safeguards worked," Andruzzi said.
Just last month it was the district attorney who took heat for a paperwork error that led to the release of another jail inmate, career criminal Robert Preece. He's still on the loose, and investigators think Preece may be the guy in a surveillance video robbing a bank in Holladay.
The U.S. Marshals think Preece may have committed more crimes while on the run. Luckily, that's not the case with Russell Maez. These are clearly different situations, but in both cases two men accused of serious crimes slipped out of the system early because of paperwork errors.
In the case of Russell Maez, the prosecutor thinks the defense attorney made an innocent mistake. "You know, I don't think there was any bad faith on his part at all," Andruzzi said.
But Kim Maez thinks something needs to be done. "I just think, ‘Pay attention to the paperwork. Pay attention to what you're doing. Pay attention to it for a reason,'" she said.
The defense attorney did not apologize for his error, but he did say, "Mr. Maez did not in any way violate the conditions of his release. When he was notified that he had been wrongfully released from custody he turned himself back into the jail to serve the remainder of the 72 hours."
That was today. The Salt Lake County Jail confirmed for us that Mr. Maez is back behind bars.