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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ommen Nominated for AHC Commissioner

Last week, Governor Blunt issued a press release announcing he had nominated Department of Insurance Director Doug Ommen to the Administrative Hearing Commission. The term will run until 2014. The nomination is pending Missouri Senate confirmation.

AR: Man Charged w/ Impersonating a Marshal

An Arkansas man has been charged with impersonating a US Marshal. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Jonathan Horton is not licensed as a bounty hunter or bondsman, but sometimes worked as a fugitive recovery agent for a bonding company. The report states that Horton tried to have police equipment installed in his truck and had announced himself as a federal marshal to area police officers as well as the public. The judge in the case has ordered Horton detained because he is considered a flight risk by the court because of his frequent moving from state to state.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bondsmen: Helping Victims, Saving Taxpayer Money

Here's a great story from WBTW TV in South Carolina. It profiles the job of a bondsman and how that job saves taxpayer dollars and delivers accountability to the court system.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boone County: Arrests Lead to Cash-Only Bonds

The Columbia Daily Tribune headlined a story yesterday, “Frequent arrests drive demand for cash-only bonds.” The article details the arrests two defendants in Boone County and reports the prosecutor’s move to revoke their surety bonds in favor of cash-only bonds. In both cases, the accused men had been arrested for assaulting women shortly after being released on surety bonds. The judge in the cases revoked the surety bonds posted and ordered the men held on bonds which were set at part cash-only and part surety.

The Columbia Daily Tribune has reported on several bail bond cases since the first of the year. Previously, the Tribune reported on a $750,000 bond posted in Boone County which resulted in a bond revocation and the changing of Boone County Court’s process of qualifying bondsmen who write bonds in the circuit.

CDT Coverage:
Frequent Arrests Drive Demand for Cash-only Bonds 4/19/2008
Murder Case Leads to New Bond Rules 2/6/2008
Murder Case Subject of Bail Squabble 1/24/2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

RFT: Bondsmen in the STL News

The Riverfront Times printed an article concerning the bail industry. The article reviews the history of Virgil Lee Jackson and his murder plot against local competitor Jerry Cox. The article also examines the legislative agenda of the Missouri Professional Bail Bond Association (MPBBA) and the representatives and senators who accepted money from them to change the bail laws to allow for the licensing of felons. MPBBA defended changing the law to accommodate Lee Jackson's criminal past, even though Jackson had been convicted of 8 felonies and spent 20 years in prison. According to the article, Jack Allison characterized Lee Jackson as a model employee. The article quoted Allison saying, "The whole time that Lee worked for me he was professional. He did everything the way you're supposed to do it." Jackson worked for Allison at the time he was arrested for the murder plot. Allison is on MPBBA's legislative committee and told the reporter that the association supports the licensing of felons and had no plans to remove the Lee Clause.

Monday, April 14, 2008

FOLLOWUP: Fugitive Incident Case History

I have received several phone calls regarding my post yesterday involving the fugitive recovery incident addressed by the Administrative Hearing Commission in 2000. Michael Keethler’s bail license was re-issued by the DIFP in 2005. His license is now active and in good-standing with the DIFP.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

AHC Case History on Fugitive Incident

I came across an older case which was decided by the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) in 2000. I became interested when I learned that the case involved the use of a weapon while performing fugitive recovery work. The agent involved, Michael Keethler, had his license renewal refused by the AHC for gross negligence involving his work as a bondsman. According to a report published by the Columbia Daily Tribune and the decision of the AHC, Keethler went to the residence of Larry W. Creason in order to revoke his bond. Keethler and another agent blocked the car that Creason was in and tried to take him into custody. Creason escaped on foot. The reports stated that Keethler fired a warning shot and then fired two other shots, one of which grazed Creason on the head. The police were summoned and Keethler was arrested for armed criminal action, first-degree assault, and unlawful use of a weapon and released on a $45,000 bond. Keethler later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault with injury and was placed on two years probation. The DIFP refused to renew his license citing that Keethler had committed incompetency, gross negligence, or misconduct in the performance of his duties as a bondsman in violation of RSMO 374.755(5). Keethler filed a complaint with the AHC against the department’s action. The commission ruled that Keethler had not committed misconduct by having the weapon with him. The commission said, “We recognize that Keethler had reason to believe that Creason could be armed and dangerous. For that reason, we do not believe that Keethler committed the act with a wrongful intention, which would be misconduct.” The AHC also said, “However, there was no evidence that Creason actually was armed, and he was running away at the time Keethler shot him. Keethler fired the shots in a trailer park while a number of people were at the scene. Such actions were reckless and demonstrate a conscious indifference to professional duty. We conclude that Keethler’s conduct was gross negligence, but we find the evidence insufficient to demonstrate incompetency or misconduct.”

When the AHC rendered its decision on Keethler, it published the following definitions:

Incompetency-either a licensee’s general lack of present ability, or a lack of disposition to use his otherwise sufficient present ability, to perform a given duty.
Misconduct-the willful doing of an act with a wrongful intention.
Gross negligence-an act or course of conduct which demonstrates a conscious indifference to a professional duty, and that indifference constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.

Incidentally, Larry W. Creason was arrested earlier this week after a long pursuit in Boone County involving a helicopter. Creason was charged with possession of meth paraphernalia, possession of meth chemicals, and resisting arrest. His bond was listed at $50,500 and he was later released on bond.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Legislating Your Future

Let’s imagine for a moment that Exxon passed a law saying that everyone in the State of Missouri must buy only Exxon gas. I suppose if you wanted to continue to go to work and pay your bills, you would buy Exxon gas. What would happen to all of the other gasoline companies? What would happen to the price of gas? What would happen to the Exxon profit margins? How well do you think Exxon would pay its stockholders and company executives? You would say that is absurd, right? The state legislature would have no business granting a company the exclusive rights to sell a product or service.

Now, let’s apply this situation to the Missouri Professional Bail Bond Association’s (MPBBA) bail bills, HB2454 and SB1247. The bail association wants legislative authority to nominate members to serve on their newly created bail bond board and they want the right to exclusively provide the training of all bail and recovery agents in the state. The association also wants to double the amount of training you will be forced to take from them.

What is going to happen to the other training providers in the state? Well, they will be out of business. What will happen to the profit margins of the association? Of course they will soar because if you want to be nominated to serve on the board, you’d better become a member. If you want to continue to work, you will have to take their training. The bail association will have an influx of money to pay its directors and/or hire staff. And what about paying its executives and stock holders? Unlike most trade associations, MPBBA is a for-profit corporation. According to MPBBA’s filings at the Missouri Secretary of State's Office , there are 30,000 shares of stock available to be issued, or maybe they have already issued the stock, who knows?

Some will say that the bail bond bills do not specifically reference MPBBA, but only say “a state association”. The bail association does not have to identify itself by name to reap the harvest of legislated status. Take a look at this law regarding the training of school board members by “a state-wide association” for school boards. The law did not name a specific school board association. It didn’t have to in order for the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) to be the sole association for school boards. And having a law requiring the existence of a state association certainly sealed its future sustainability. Plus, this state-required training became a new revenue stream for the association.

When the MPBBA sponsored legislation in 2005 to force bail and recovery agents to join “a state-wide association,” I testified before the Missouri Senate opposing this language. Forced association was a bad idea and thankfully the bill failed. This is a back-door approach to make you financially support the agenda of the association, whether or not you personally support their agenda. The association wants to buy instant credibility and wealth by passing legislation which requires bail agents to financially support the work of the association. It’s a bad idea.

  1. If you don't want a new $10 tax on each bond you write….
  2. If you do not want the association to nominate bail bond board members who will oversee your business by holding the power for the "licensing, educating, supervising, and disciplining of all general bail bond agents, bail bond agents, and surety recovery agents in this state"…..
  3. If you do not want the authority of the Department of Insurance transferred to this newly created bail bond board…..
  4. If you don't want the association to be the only provider of all bail and recovery training ...
  5. If you do not want a law requiring the existence of a bail association......

Please sign and return this petition. For those who have already done so, many thanks for your support.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Columbia Tribune Profiles Bondsman

Crime reporter Derek Kravitz of the Columbia Daily Tribune interviewed general agent George Dodge. The report details George's work in the bail bond industry, other business interests, and family life.