Inmates charged with violent crimes getting out on low bonds
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Prosecutors and a victims’ advocate are raising concerns over who is getting low bonds and getting out of jail even before the county starts releasing hundreds of inmates.
ABC13 found $300, $500 and $10 bonds issued over the last two days to defendants. Some had violent criminal histories.
Kelvin Hawthorne, 18, is accused of punching and choking his girlfriend on Monday. Normally, that kind of crime gets a $1000 bond and often times it’s a personal recognizance bond, which means release from jail on the promise to return.
On Tuesday, a judge granted Hawthorne a $100 bond. He paid $10, had to agree to bond conditions and was released from jail.
Craig Jones, 55, is accused of hitting and choking his wife. He has prior violent convictions. The state requested a $10,000 bond. On Tuesday, a magistrate made it much lower, granting a $300 bond.
Timothy Singleton, 21, also has prior convictions. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, after being accused of pulling a gun on his aunt’s neighbor. Singleton was granted a $500 bond, which means $50 would get him out of jail. Normally bond would be at least $20,000.
“Some of the cases I saw today, I almost fell off my chair in hysterical laughter,” said Andy Kahan, director of victim services and advocacy at Crime Stoppers of Houston. “Ten dollar bonds? One hundred dollar bonds? In some cases, violent felons are getting bonds I’ve never seen in my 30 years in the criminal justice system.”
Kahan said he understands low-risk defendants being released from jail for fear coronavirus will spread rapidly. One inmate has tested positive, with two dozen tests pending and hundreds more inmates under observation. As many as 1,000 inmates, who meet certain criteria, will be released in the coming days.
Tori McFarland, 23, accused of robbery with bodily injury, a violent crime, got out of jail on a $10 bond.
During a probable cause hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor and judge went back and forth on the issue of low bond. The prosecutor wanted the state’s objection to “these small bonds” on the record “for the purpose of safety of the community.”
The judge said she was not giving PR bonds to defendants charged with violent crimes in an effort to follow an earlier order by Governor Greg Abbott. Instead, she said bonds will be low to help reduce the jail population during the coronavirus outbreak.
Kahan said he will be watching who gets out of jail.
“That, to me, is a public safety crisis and we all know someone will pay the price,” he said.