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Friday, August 22, 2008

CA-Bondsman Helps Capture Man with Bombs

Yreka, CA-Tragedy may have been averted when California bail bond agent Brett Duncan was leaving his office and noticed fugitive Mike Solano parked near the probation offices in Siskiyou County, CA. Duncan said that Solano then spotted him and drove away. Duncan called police who detained Solano just minutes later. Solano began resisting arrest and reached into his boot and pulled out a Beretta pistol. Duncan and Darrell Bourne helped police subdue Solano.

Police found a pipe bomb strapped to Solano’s leg. In Solano’s car, police discovered 15 other home-made explosives, some made with nails and BBs, 70 loaded magazines, more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, one stolen pistol and two assault weapons, including one with a silencer, surveillance equipment, a tactical vest and clothing with face masks.

Duncan had posted Solano’s $30,000 bond which had been forfeited in July when Solano failed to appear for probation revocation proceedings. Duncan told the Sacramento Bee that it was “dumb luck” when he ran across Solano in front of the probation offices. Yreka Police Chief Brian Bowles thanked Brett Duncan and Darrell Bourne, who helped officers detain Solano. “Without their help, somebody, no doubt, would have been seriously injured or killed in this incident," he said.

Impersonator Wanted Pizza Discount

In a failed attempt to impersonate a bondsman and a law enforcement officer, Michael Roden of Louisville, KY, was arrested after he allegedly flashed a bail bond agent badge, and then identified himself as a police officer in order to get the cop discount for a pizza. Unfortunately for Roden, a real cop was also dining in the pizza parlor and arrested Roden for impersonating an officer. No charges were filed for impersonating a bondsman….probably because bondsmen don’t get pizza discounts.

(If you think I made this up, click to read the top story on WHAS-TV.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bondsman Arrested for Attempted Theft

Licensed bondsman Jackie Covey of Carthage, MO, was arrested Saturday in Dade County for attempted theft/stealing of an item valued over $25,000 and possession of burglary tools. The Dade County Sheriff’s Office also arrested Aaron Redburn. According to court records, Redburn and Covey were arrested for attempting to steal four ATVs from S&H Farm Supply. Both had bonds set at $100,000 cash only. Covey’s bond was later changed to cash or surety on the condition that the bond is made by someone other than the company she works for and that she has no contact with Aaron Redburn. According to casenet, Covey later posted bond with McBee Bail Bonds.

As reported here earlier, Covey was arrested in January of this year along with Redburn. KOAM-TV reported that Covey was seen on surveillance video returning a stolen home theatre system and receiving a gift card in exchange. She was charged with receiving stolen property and has been bound over for trial in the Circuit Court of Jasper County.

There is also an ongoing investigation into a fire that destroyed Covey’s home last May. The Missouri State Fire Marshall’s Office confirmed that the fire that destroyed her home has been ruled an arson and is an ongoing criminal investigation. No charges have been filed against anyone in connection with this investigation.

Covey has been licensed since 2003. There are no disciplinary issues before the DIFP at this time.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

CT: Bondsman Says Bond Discounting is Public Safety Issue

The Connecticut bail system has been under a lot of scrutiny after a federal probe exposed corruption by officials, a police officer and three bondsmen.

In an editorial printed in the Hartford Courant, bondsman Patrick Moynihan said that discounting the state required minimum bail premiums is putting the public at risk. According to Moynihan, in Connecticut, the minimum bail premium is between 7 to 10 percent, depending upon the total amount of the bond. He said bondsmen are illegally discounting bonds to 2 or 3 percent. He opines, “With the going rate for bail bonds at a fraction of the legal limit, it is fair to assume that most if not all of these offenders were released on illegally discounted bail bond premiums. This practice only helps them return to the communities they terrorize. It creates a revolving door for violent and repeat offenders and makes bail bond companies incapable of fulfilling their financial obligations to the state.” He closed his editorial stating that commercial bail is superior to all other forms of release, but the system needs increased regulation.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Federal Court Says Judges Can Disqualify Bondsmen

Back in 2006, I reported a federal lawsuit filed by several bondsmen against the two judges, a prosecutor, two bondsmen and law enforcement in southeast Missouri. Here is some background on the suit:

Tom Peak, owner of Peak Bail Bonds of Jefferson City, and three of his agents filed a lawsuit in US District Court against two Missouri presiding circuit judges, the Honorable Mark Richardson of the 36th Judicial Circuit and the Honorable Fred Copeland of the 34th Judicial Circuit. Also named were state troopers Buddy Cooper and Jeff Heath, Sheriff Mark Dobbs of Butler County, New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Recker, and Phillip Childress and Craig Meador of Childress Bail Bonds of Poplar Bluff, MO.

Plaintiffs Peak, Glenn Beazley of Jefferson City, Bobby Martin of Marston, and John Montgomery of Poplar Bluff, alleged in a seven count complaint; two counts of conspiracy, denial of due process, tortuous interference, slander, libel, and injurious falsehood. The complaint alleged that Peak and his agents were unfairly denied the right to conduct bail bond business in the courts’ jurisdictions based partly upon a complaint received by competitor Childress. The suit alleged that Richardson, Copeland, Dobbs, Recker, Cooper and Heath used the power and prestige of their positions to investigate and discredit plaintiffs without authority. The complaint also alleged that the injurious statements regarding Martin and Montgomery were false and harmful, and defendants intended the harm or should have recognized that harm was likely as a result of the false statements.

In December 2007, all the defendants except Judge Copeland and Judge Richardson were dismissed from the lawsuit. All of the counts were dismissed, except for one, which alleged denial of due process rights. Specifically the one remaining count of the complaint was:

“Defendants failed to use proper procedure and were recklessly indifferent to the civil rights of Plaintiffs in the following manners: a) No Missouri statute, regulation or rule provides Defendants Richardson and Copeland the authority to conduct investigations into any activities of Bail Bond Agents, revoke the license of any Bail Bond Agent, or otherwise limit the bond activity of any bail Bond Agent. Conducting investigations into the alleged activities of Plaintiff and ‘revoking’ the licenses of Plaintiffs Martin and Montgomery was outside the scope of their authority. Defendants disregard of established procedure for investigation activities into Bond Agents and acting outside of the scope of their own authority constitutes deliberate indifference to the civil rights of Plaintiffs, established under the laws of the State of Missouri.”

Both parties moved for summary judgment and here is some of what the federal court said:

1) Considering the relevant statutes, the Missouri Supreme Court Rules, and the trial court's obligation to enforce those rules, it becomes apparent that Defendants are permitted, if not required, to determine whether bail bond agents writing bonds in their courts are reputable. (Emphasis added)
2)….The Court finds that revoking a bail bond agent's privilege to write bail bonds in a judge's court or circuit is a judicial action, i.e., an act taken in the judge's judicial capacity.
3) The clear weight of authority gives Missouri circuit judges jurisdiction to determine whether a particular surety can write bonds in that judge's circuit. A judge's alleged failure to do so without an investigation into the underlying reasons or a judge's failure to give any pre- or post-revocation procedural protections to the revoked agent does not deprive that judge of jurisdiction over bail bond approval or rejection. At worst, Defendants acted in excess of their jurisdiction; and this is insufficient to deprive them of judicial immunity.

Bail bond agents have routinely referred RSMO 374.759.3, which reads, “All Missouri licensed bail bond agents or licensed general agents shall be qualified, without further requirements, in all jurisdictions of this state, as provided in rules promulgated by the supreme court of Missouri and not by any circuit court rule.” (Emphasis by court) Bondsmen have argued that this statute establishes the agents’ authority to work and a judge cannot interfere with that. The federal court said that although the state bail bond statutes do, in fact, refer to Missouri Supreme Court Rules, the reference is not in the context of amending or annulling the rules but is in giving deference to the rules. Additionally, the court said it is the trial court's duty to enforce Missouri Supreme Court Rules.

The court's entire ruling here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DIFP Disciplinary Actions

The following licensed bondsmen paid voluntary penalties to the Missouri School Fund in order to settle disciplinary issues before the Department of Insurance.

James (Doug) Graue, Hayti, MO, voluntary forfeiture of $3,982.35 for department allegations of permitting an unlicensed person to solicit or engage in the bail bond business.

Carlin Baird, Carthage, MO, voluntary forfeiture of $100 for department allegations of misrepresentation on a bail bond license application.

Renelle Evans, Columbia, MO, voluntary forfeiture of $100 for department allegations of misrepresentation on a bail bond license application.

Hoyt Ray, Sedalia, MO, voluntary forfeiture of $100 for department allegations of misrepresentation on a bail bond license application.

In other disciplinary actions, the DIFP has refused to renew the bail bond license of Douglas Meeks of Fredericktown. The DIFP’s complaint alleges that Meeks’s license was refused because he entered a plea of guilty in two felony cases in 1994. The DIFP's complaint states that Meeks was given suspended imposition of sentencing in the cases. Meeks has been licensed since 2004. He has filed a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission on the matter, which is scheduled to be heard on November 14th.

The DIFP also refused to renew the license of Flay Bledsoe, of Kansas City. According to the complaint, the DIFP alleges that Bledsoe entered a plea of guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 2006 and was given a suspended imposition of sentence. The DIFP alleges that Bledsoe did not disclose the SIS on his renewal application.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

AHC Issues Decision in Joyce Case

The Administrative Hearing Commission has issued its third decision regarding the license of bondsman Phillip Joyce. In the latest decision, the AHC ruled that Joyce’s license should be denied because he does not meet the qualifications for licensure under Missouri Supreme Court rules as required by RSMO 374.715.1. The DIFP refused to renew Joyce's license last year. The DIFP's order stated that Joyce's license had been refused because he was convicted in 1995 of stealing by deceit in Scott County, Missouri, and pled nolo contendere to the same type of charge in Craighead County, Arkansas. The DIFP alleged that Joyce was not qualified for a bail bond license because the Department must apply the current licensing statutes retrospectively, that because of Joyce’s convictions, he does not meet supreme court rule, and that he committed fraud or deception by not disclosing his nolo contendere case in Arkansas on his application. Joyce appealed the DIFP’s decision by filing a complaint with the AHC. The AHC quoted RSMO 374.715.1 which states that an applicant must prove that he/she meets the qualifications for surety on bail bonds as provided by supreme court rule. [Emphasis added by AHC.] The AHC ruled, “The felony convictions and pleas disqualify Joyce from acting as a surety on bail bonds. Because Joyce failed to submit proof that he ‘meets the qualifications for surety on bail bonds as provided by supreme court rule’ under RSMO 374.715.1, we have no discretion to issue the bail bond license.” The AHC also said, “The Supreme Court Rule is even more clear, using the language: ‘Has not, within the past 15 years, been found guilty of or pleaded guilty or nolo contendere . . . .’ The rule references past conduct as a basis to determine whether an application should be denied…….That the Director and this Commission granted Joyce’s application in the past does not affect our decision in this case, under different circumstances and different interpretation of the laws.”

The AHC had ruled on Joyce’s license on two other occasions. In 1998, the AHC ruled that the licensing provisions regarding the licensing of felons (in effect at that time) were permissive and not mandatory. The AHC ruled that although Phillip Joyce was a convicted felon, he should be granted a bail bond license. The Commission ruled that Joyce exhibited a good reputation in his new community, was resolved not to repeat his mistakes, and was candid about his convictions. The AHC concluded that these factors outweighed the felony convictions and granted him a license. Two years later Joyce applied for a general bail bond license and his application was denied by the Department of Insurance for the same reason, felony convictions. Again, Joyce appealed to the AHC. This time the AHC ruled in favor of the Department of Insurance. The AHC ruled that the wording of the applicable statutes and Missouri Supreme Court Rules prohibited the issuance of a general bail bond license. The commission said that a general bail bond agent shall meet the qualifications for surety on bail bonds as provided by supreme court rule..... and supreme court rule 33.17(c) states that the surety has not been convicted of any felony under the laws of any state or the United States. (The Supreme Court rule has since been amended to include the 15 year clause.)

Previous Posts on Joyce Decisions:
DIFP Refuses to Renew Joyce License 7/13/2007
Joyce Decisions-Defining Bail Bond Law 4/24/2006

Friday, August 8, 2008

FL-Bail Bond Student Arrested for Threatening Obama and Bush

Miami, FL-A man attending a bail bond pre-licensing education class in Miami, FL has been arrested for threatening the lives of Senator Obama and President Bush. Raymond Hunter Geisel is being held without bail on federal charges. The Secret Service Agent’s affidavit states that he relied on information furnished by other students in the class. One student quoted Geisel as saying, “That nigger, if he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself.” Another student reported that Geisel said he hated George W. Bush and wanted to put a bullet in the President’s head. A search of Geisel’s hotel room and personal vehicle revealed emergency lights, a hand gun, several types of ammo including body armor piercing ammo, a machete, knives, body armor, batons, tear gas, and stun gun. Geisel had recently moved to Florida from Maine and was living on a sailboat with his girlfriend.

Friday, August 1, 2008

DIFP Files Complaint for Use of Badge

The DIFP has filed a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission against bondsman Michael Barton. According to court records, Barton used a badge containing the words “Fugitive Recovery Agent” to impersonate a law enforcement officer. Barton went to the home of woman wearing the badge around his neck and a gun on his right hip. According to the woman, Barton identified himself as a federal agent and demanded that she turn over some unidentified property to a third person not identified in the reports. The woman released the property to Barton and he left. She then called the Phelps County Sheriff to verify that Barton was indeed a law enforcement officer. A Phelps County Sheriff’s deputy arrested Barton for impersonating an officer. He later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense. The DIFP’s complaint alleges that Barton is subject to discipline because he no longer meets the qualification for surety because he pleaded guilty to a crime involving moral turpitude.

Barton has been licensed since 2006 and has relocated from the Rolla area to the St. Louis area.