Enquirer Herald

York County magistrate: Bonds for drug suspects were appropriate

The York County magistrate who was criticized for the bonds he set for 11 accused drug dealers last week said Tuesday his goal was to guarantee their appearance in court – not set them free.

Refuting claims by York Police Chief Andy Robinson that the bonds were too low, Judge Leon Yard told The Herald he took numerous factors into consideration before setting them.

“Bond is not meant to penalize people,” Yard said.

On Friday, 55 officers from the York Police Department, the York County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s multijurisdictional drug unit moved into the “Valley” neighborhood.

“Operation Fall Back” produced 46 warrants, mostly for drug offenses, after a months-long investigation. On Friday, 31 of those warrants were served. Three more people were arrested over the weekend.

Police on Monday arrested Charles Edward June, 43, in connection with the sting. He’s charged with distribution of crack near a school and manufacturing/distributing cocaine-second offense. He’s being held on a $12,970 bond. Police are looking for one more person.

By Monday afternoon, several of those arrested were out of prison but as of Tuesday evening, seven of them were still in jail.

Robinson sent an email to reporters on Monday expressing his frustration that bond amounts for some of those arrested weren’t as high as he thought they deserved. He blamed a “flawed” criminal justice system, saying magistrates are inconsistent in the bond amounts they set.

But Yard said Tuesday that bond isn’t a means of keeping people in jail, but to make sure they receive due process and have their day in court. Yard said he approaches each case individually and fairly.

“As far as we’re concerned,” he said, “even though they’re charged, they’re innocent until proven guilty.”

Magistrates ensure the person before them isn’t a flight risk or a threat to the community, Yard said. They consider numerous factors, including whether the person has ties to the community, such as parents or children they’re caring for.

“Everybody’s innocent at that point in the game,” said Yard. “I can’t put my opinion into that bond-setting procedure.”

Criminal charges don’t carry specific bond ranges that magistrates select when setting a bond, said Forest Acres Municipal Court Judge Bill Womble, president of the South Carolina Summary Court Judges Association.

Bonds for minor traffic offenses, driving under the influence, simple possession of marijuana or disorderly conduct come with amounts recommended by the state’s Court Administration office, Womble said.

Charges that fall beyond those, such as distribution of crack cocaine within proximity to a school, don’t have bond ranges. The amount of bond is at the magistrate’s discretion, he said.

Ten people can be arrested in a drug raid at a house, Womble said, but a person who might have just been visiting likely will receive a lower bond than someone manufacturing the drugs.

Someone from another country charged with a crime in a judge’s jurisdiction likely will get a high bond, he said, because they’re a definite flight risk.

“A bond is not a punitive thing,” Womble said. “You’re not supposed to punish someone.”

Even when judges set very high bonds, he said, it might not stop defendants from getting out of jail.

Womble, who served as a magistrate in Richland County for almost 40 years after working as a police officer, said he once set the maximum amount of bond he could for a person. That person posted bail and was released.

Within two hours, he shot and killed someone pumping gas across the street from the courthouse, Womble said, and later killed two other people.

“There is no good answer,” he said.

Police officers who want someone to receive a higher bond can attend the bond hearing and make their requests known at the hearings, Womble said.

“If it’s important enough to fuss about the bond, then it’s important enough to go to the hearing,” he said.

Robinson said he didn’t attend the bond hearings after the drug sweep because the charges were filed by the county’s drug unit. York Police do attend city court hearings to request higher bonds, he said.

“I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me or my people to be there,” he said. “We don’t deal with the county magistrates as often as the drug units and the sheriff’s office. We do it at the city level.”

Police officers go before magistrates to have warrants signed, Womble said, which gives them an opportunity to tell judges why a defendant deserves a high bond.

Robinson said he didn’t contact Judge Yard before he sent an email to reporters on Monday, but he said “in retrospect” he probably should have.

“Due to past issues with judges, it never has made a difference before,” Robinson told The Herald.

Robinson said he knows state law requires defendants to receive bonds unless they’ve been charged with murder or other capital offenses. He also understands that magistrates have discretion when setting bonds, but so do police officers when they file charges.

“You have to use a little bit of common sense” when dealing with repeat offenders, Robinson said.

Securing a court appearance is important, he said, but “we’re out here trying to secure the community.”

‘Operation Fall Back’

Fourteen people were arrested in connection with last week’s drug sweep of the “Valley” neighborhood in York:

Thomas Castle, 58, is charged with distribution of crack-third offense, distribution of crack near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions, dating back to 1974: assault, pointing a firearm, three counts of driving under the influence, two counts of possession of marijuana, two counts of driving under suspension.

Marion Barnett, 67, is charged with distribution of crack-third offense or more, distribution of crack near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions: possession of marijuana.

Odell Brown Jr., 28, is charged with three counts of distribution of crack-second offense, three counts of distribution of crack near a park; $60,000 bond. Prior convictions: two counts of violating the drug distribution law, two counts of criminal domestic violence.

Dontaria Akeem Hicks-Jones, 22, is charged with two counts of distribution of crack, distribution of crack near a park, distribution of crack near a school; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions: simple assault, public disorderly conduct.

Monta Derell Neely, 22, is charged with distribution of crack, distribution of crack near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions: public disorderly conduct, assault and battery.

Marquis Antwain Patton, 23, is charged with distribution of crack-second offense, distribution of crack near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions: Two counts of distributing crack cocaine near a school, two counts of manufacturing/distributing crack cocaine.

Antwain Lamaries Carter, 21, is charged with distribution of crack, distribution of crack near a park; $10,000 bond. Prior convictions: reckless driving.

David Willie Moore, 55, is charged with distribution of crack, distribution of crack near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions, dating back to 1980: Three counts of driving under the influence, four counts of driving under suspension, failing to stop for police, seat belt violation, habitual traffic offender, driving on the wrong side of the road, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of crack cocaine.

Gregory Davis, 47, is charged with two counts of distribution of crack-third offense or more, two counts of distribution of crack near a park; $40,000 bond. Prior convictions, dating back to 1985: five counts of forgery, three counts of manufacturing/distributing crack cocaine, five counts of manufacturing/distributing crack cocaine, one conviction for distributing crack near a school.

Wesley Charles Huffstetler, 18, is charged with two counts of distribution of marijuana, two counts of distribution of marijuana near a park; $20,000 bond. Prior convictions: none.

Willie Ramon Walton, 25, is charged with two counts of distribution of crack-third offense, distribution of crack near a school; $90,000 bond. Prior convictions: distribution and selling crack cocaine near a school, manufacturing of cocaine, sale of/or possession of a pistol, public disorderly conduct.

Johnathan Michael Gibson, 18, is charged with distribution of marijuana (conspiracy) and distribution of marijuana near a park; $7,000 bond. Prior convictions: none.

Jeffrey Davis, 44, is charged with two counts of distribution of crack-third offense or more, two counts of distribution of crack near a school; $40,000 bond. Prior convictions: Two counts of distributing/selling crack cocaine near a school, two counts of distributing crack cocaine, two counts of possession of cocaine, trespassing.

Charles Henry June, 43, is charged with distribution of crack near a school and manufacturing/distributing cocaine-second offense; $12,970 bond. Prior convictions: possession of cocaine, communicating threats by means of incendiary, two counts of assault and battery, illegal use of a telephone, criminal domestic violence and criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.

  Comments