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Bail Bond Bill Would Shackle Public's Justice

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Read the article below by Bill Johnson of denverpost.com. He talks about the continued fight against Senate Bill 186 in Colorado that would destroy commercial bail and the story of a captured fugitive by a bail agent.

This story is every reason why Senate Bill 186, which would radically alter if not completely destroy — the commercial bail-bond industry in Colorado, should die today.

Co-sponsor Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, contends the bill is good for public safety and for saving taxpayer dollars. I believe he is wrong on both counts.

The bill passed the full Senate on an 18-17 vote last week. It would allow those arrested to post an "alternative bond" directly with the government instead of paying a bail agent to guarantee their appearance in court.

It would almost assuredly put most of the 500 bail agents in the state out of work and give the government total say in how the accused are let out of jail and monitored. Worse yet, it provides no mechanism to hunt down and capture the accused who fail to show in court.

"Nobody wants to put people out of business," Waller told me. "It simply gives people an option."

No, what it does is allow a government takeover of a healthy bail-bond industry and put it first in line for the millions of dollars the industry currently takes in. And that is just wrong.

Waller and I agreed to disagree. And then, I told him this story:

Wade Mitchell Parker, one of the biggest securities and construction-industry scam artists in the Denver metro area in the 1990s, on Oct. 7, 1994, skipped bail on multiple felony counts related to a log-home-building business he used to scam dozens of people out of well more than $1 million.

Peggy Hines, the agent who had guaranteed his appearance, had to pay the court $56,000. It took her months to pay it back, and it ultimately forced her out of business.

Dave Hyatt, a former bail agent who became vice president of regional bail underwriting for HCC Surety Group, felt horrible for Hines.

He decided then he would find Wade Mitchell Parker.

He met me at a restaurant the other day, carrying a 6-inch-thick folder. In it was every bit of information on Parker he had compiled over the past 16 years.

He'd gotten "America's Most Wanted" episodes and magazine articles produced on the man. If he heard that Parker might be in a certain town, he'd plaster it with "Wanted" fliers.

No solid leads ever arrived.

"But I never gave up on him," Hyatt said.

On April 26, an e-mail arrived for him with Wade Mitchell Parker in the subject line.

"Is he still wanted? Is there a reward?" was all it said.

Dave Hyatt, elated, immediately replied that Parker was, indeed, still wanted, but he wasn't sure of a reward.

"OK, forget the reward," the e-mailer, who had seen one of Dave Hyatt's fliers, wrote back. "Who should I send a tip to his whereabouts if he is still wanted?"

It set in motion a string of e-mails that went through assorted lawyers and Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, all of which landed in the lap of Detective Avis Laurita of the Denver Police Department's Fugitive Location and Apprehension Group, or FLAG.

The detective contacted the e-mailer — who would identify himself only as Treasure Dog. On May 4, Detective Laurita wrote him back.

"Treasure Dog," it began, "thank you for all your information. FLAG was able to pass along that information to the U.S. marshals in Virginia. We gave the marshals a location for Parker, and he was arrested this morning."

He was found in Norfolk, living under the name of George Davenport. He is awaiting extradition.

Dave Hyatt sat across the table from me, a big smile on his face. "It was the principle of the thing," he said.

Original Article:
denverpost.com
Johnson: Bail-bond bill would shackle public's justice

Bill Johnson writes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at 303-954-2763 orwjohnson@denverpost.com.