I received an email from a group called Texas Alliance for Safe Communities extolling the virtues of bail bonds and claiming that victims are being subjected to unfair stress due to bail bond reform measures.
I am writing today because I am a victim of domestic violence, and I have concerns that bail reform laws allowed my attacker to be released from jail so quickly and easily.
In September 2017, my then boyfriend, Robert Wayne Hill, began attacking me after a phone call he had been on. He hung up a call, I asked him what was wrong, and he became angry. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. I remember his hand grabbing my shoulder before he began punching me in my face, knocking me down on the ground. He used his knees to damage my back, sides and stomach area and kept yelling he wanted to kill me. There is much about that night that I wish I didn’t remember, however I do remember thinking he was going to kill me and I remember being frightened for myself and thinking my kids were not going to have a mom anymore. This was not the way my life was supposed to be.
While on the ground, I heard the voice of a man calling the police for me. Eventually the beating stopped, and police showed up and arrested Robert. I was taken to the hospital, and when I was finally alone I took out my phone, turned on the camera and looked at myself. I was horrified to see what the man I loved did to me. I didn’t look like me.
What was more shocking to me was within 24 hours of the assault, Robert began texting and calling me trying to make contact. I was shocked to be hearing from him so quickly, but shock turned to fear once I realized that meant he was already released from jail. Once again, I wasn’t safe. As far as I knew, he was looking for me and could put me through this hellish nightmare all over again – possibly killing me this time.
Essentially Robert pinky promised to come back to court after lying, saying he didn’t have the money to pay bail. My attacker was released on his own words without paying a cent. As the victim, I was worried that he was freely roaming the streets. Neither the DA nor the sheriff’s department had the correct address for him, and I was concerned he would just come find me and hurt me again.
Upon feeling these concerns, I have educated myself on some of the reforms that are happening in the state. Activist judges created this issue by allowing misdemeanor defendants out of jail within 24 hours with virtually no accountability — the exact policy that allowed my abuser out of jail so easily. Because of this policy, I did not receive a protective order or a no contact order for over a week. He missed court dates with no consequences, because the DA said he was given slack due to Hurricane Harvey.
From that day on, I have lived in fear. My attacker hired a PI to follow me, and obtained my new address where friends took me in. He had this PI follow me to my son’s day care and other places. I am in fear when I see a vehicle like his. This is something I deal with daily. I feel that the State of Texas let me down. The State places a higher importance on perpetrators rather than respecting the rights of victims and keeping them safe.
Can you put yourself in my shoes? Can you imagine being a victim of domestic violence? But then imagine not only trying to deal with this happening to you and trying to understand it, but also try imagining being in fear daily that you will run into your attacker, or your attacker will come find you in your car, or at a gas station. Maybe that attacker will even show up at your new place that you had to run to because you already lost your home, along with everything you owned. Imagine being scared of the person you were once so in love with, the one you thought would protect you from things like this. Imagine knowing that you’re not even protected by the state or the laws that are supposed to protect you from these monsters.
This is just part of my story, but this is my life and this is what I deal with every day of my life now.
On behalf of victims everywhere, I am begging you to please keep our communities safe, and to keep safeguards in place to protect Texas families.
The email included enough identifying information for me to find the case on the Harris County District Clerk’s website. The original case is 216912501010, filed as a Misdemeanor on 9/14/17. That case was dismissed on 5/2/18 and refiled as a Felony after a grand jury indictment, case number 158889901010.
I’m not an attorney and have no experience with the criminal courts so I can’t comment on any “merits” of the case. There are several different descriptions in the report as to what happened, he pushed her or he hit her and or the new one for the felony, he choked her. But it piqued my curiosity and I was curious about the Texas Alliance for Safe Communities.
There isn’t a lot of information out there. There is an AP story by Will Weisserty around the time that the group was formed. You can find it on many news sites, here is one. Here is a snippet:
A new Texas nonprofit promoting crime victims’ rights is opposing bipartisan efforts to end cash bail systems that have gained traction around the country – hitting back at one of the few issues that unified powerful advocates on both the right and left.
Formally kicking off Thursday, the Texas Alliance for Safe Communities said it wants to strengthen public safety and curb violent crime by pushing in the Republican-controlled Legislature and beyond for criminal justice system accountability while preserving “judicial discretion.”
The group hopes to halt bail system overhauls favoring assessments of defendants’ danger to the public. Supporters of such changes say defendants deemed little risk should be eligible to be released from jail on “unsecured” bonds that don’t require cash payments – rather than traditional, cash bond systems where defendants forfeit payments if they fail to show up in court.
“Texas communities are under assault by activist judges and misguided bureaucrats determined to let violent criminals get out of jail free,” said Mark Miner, who was spokesman for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign and now holds the same role for the alliance.
Similar groups defending cash bonds have popped up in other states and are often sponsored by bail bond companies worried about losing business. Miner said bail bond interests “are assisting with funding as the group is beginning.” He said two of its five founding board members have links to the industry.
“They are part of the organization, but they’re not the only part,” Miner said of bail bond interests, adding that the alliance expects to attract members of other victims’ groups, police organizations and “many ordinary citizens.”
In other words, the group is being funded by the bail bond industry, hoping to keep their revenue streams going. You might remember Mark Miner, who, as mentioned was Rick Perry’s spokesman during his presidential run in 2012. You also might remember that Miner was Perry’s spokesman in his gubernatorial run in 2010 and came up with nickname “Kay Bailout” for Kay Bailey Hutchison. Just a factoid.
As noted in the first sentence, bail reform has united people on both sides of the aisle. Warehousing misdemeanor criminals who can’t afford a bail bond doesn’t do anything for public safety. Also quoted in the article is Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation:
“Money bail doesn’t have anything to do with public safety because there’s not really a correlation between how much money someone has and whether they’re a risk to the public,” said Marc Levin, the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s vice president for criminal justice policy.
Mr. Levin is exactly correct, as usual. It is important to note in this case that the victim has not been harmed by the fact that the defendant was released on a personal bond of $3,000. He forfeited that bond after his original court date of 9/21/17 was changed to 9/20/17 on 9/19/17 and he missed the hearing. Today, after the case was refiled as a felony, he is out on a $5,000 bond. Again, no difference in the safety of the victim.
So why am I writing this? Because I think it is important to know who is funding the effort to keep low risk, misdemeanor defendants in jail simply because they do not have money for a bail bond. Now, when you get an email like this in your inbox, it might make you think twice before yelling and screaming about those activist judges. Who, btw, in this case is a solid conservative Republican judge. Just sayin’.