A man prosecutors say is a dangerous gang member got out of jail recently by paying a bondsman $5,000 on a $133,000 bond, it was testified Monday.
Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman said the case of Taiwan Greathouse illustrates some of the problems with the Bail Reform Act.
Judge Steelman said the law sets a 10-percent maximum bond charge, but has no minimum. He said the fact that someone can get out of jail on a $133,000 bond for $5,000 illustrates the difficulty of judges being able to carry out one of their duties - to "protect the public."
On the other hand, he said there are a large number of lesser cases in which, perhaps, there should be "no bond at all."
Judge Steelman suggested that legislators consider possible changes to the Bail Reform Act.
He also noted that Greathouse earlier got a state-paid attorney, Rip Biggs. He said the state "hobbles around trying to pay for court-appointed attorneys, then defendants are able to come up with $5,000 in bond money."
Judge Steelman said there is not a great incentive for bonding officers to go after defendants since a law was passed that says they "are off the hook" however the defendant gets picked up. He said there does not have to be any involvement in the capture by the person who made the bond.
Prosecutor Kevin Brown said Greathouse wound up only with a $13,500 bond from General Sessions Court despite being involved in a case in which he said he led police on a dangerous chase. He said a prosecutor in General Sessions Court agreed to the lower bond without getting the approval of higher-ups in the office.
Prosecutor Brown said the DA's office obtained a higher bond when the case got to the Grand Jury. He wound up with the $133,000 bond, but then prosecutors learned he had gotten out of jail.
Bondsman Kevin Tucker said various Greathouse family members called him for two months about making the high bond. He said he told the family that three bonding firms could go together and the total charge would be $5,000.
He said he controls both Kevin Tucker Bonding and All Out Bonding. Kevin Tucker Bonding took $43,000 of the bond at a fee of $1,400. He said he is still owed $300 of that amount. He said All Out Bonding (himself also) took $50,000 of the bond for $2,000. He said he called Dexter Higgins of Key Bonding and he agreed to take $40,000 of the bond for $1,600.
Bondsman Tucker said the four percent fee is not unusual. He said, "Some take less, and you have to go low to compete."
He said the $5,000 cash was brought to him at the jail by Brittany Bell, girlfriend of Greathouse.
Ms. Bell, who said Greathouse lives with her along with her two children, ages eight and five, and her sister, said some $2,300 of the amount came from a settlement she got from a car accident. She said she contributed a total of $3,000.
She said Greathouse's brother gave $1,100 and his mother contributed $500. She said several others gave smaller amounts.
Ms. Bell denied that Greathouse is a member of the Gangster Disciples gang.
Prosecutor Brown said he was "most concerned about the fact that a person is able to pay $5,000 to get a $133,000 bond."
Judge Steelman allowed Greathouse to remain free on bond, but said he cannot drive. He was driving on a revoked license at the time of his arrest.