I’ll Take, “Why His Bails So Low,” for $1,500, Stephen!
Talk about ending one day with a premise and beginning the next with a 180 degree turn.
In my column yesterday about the Eric Kaplan stalking arrest and low bail, I indicated there may be a story behind the story and that I was on it. My suppositions included, but were not limited to, a well connected dad having put a Judge in a BMW from his dealership, religious and/or social affiliations, golf buddies, a high powered Jewish lawyer – you name it.
At the root of it all, I was looking for someone pulling strings that made young Kaplan’s bond what it was, a mere $1500.00. I just knew that was the answer and I was dead set on proving it.
However, the real answer appears to be a judicial system that has more ways to charge and collect fees than Bank America. With equal and deliberate intention no less.
All while justice takes a back seat to a more corporate business model of revenue generation. Follow the money; it almost always answers just about any question.
My day today began with more than two hours of interviews.
I talked to my contacts at the JOCO courthouse and friends in professions that touch the judicial system in Johnson County. They range from program and service providers to attorneys. Including people who are in and out of the courthouse doors multiple times a day. People whose names you probably know.
The first blow to my not so well oiled theory came when I downloaded the court records for case 13-011162, Eric Lawrence Kaplan. Not only was his bond not negotiated by some high powered Leawood Country Club, influence peddling attorney, Kaplan appeared Pro Se.
In other words, he didn’t even have an attorney on retainer at that point.
The bond was determined by the DA and the Judge. I asked Cindy Bergeron in the DA’s Office who was handling the case for them and was told it would be Jason Covington. I then asked which judge set the bond and she informed me it was a pro tem judge that day and she “couldn’t read his or her signature in the bench notes.”
I’m told by other sources it was Judge Welsh, even though the record shows that Judge Cameron is in the batter’s box for Kaplan’s June 6th appearance at 9:00 a.m.
And yes, I’ll be there.
I asked my first contact, who for soon-to-be obvious reasons has to stay anonymous, “So why was the bail so low?” The answer: “Because Johnson County Judges are a bunch of fucking dip shits. OK, that’s not fair; it’s more like 80% of them are fucking dip shits.” Followed by the comment that, “The Johnson County judicial system has turned into something it shouldn’t have.”
Seems a few years back, the court system got into issuing ORCD Bonds (Own Recognizance-Cash Deposit) under Criminal Rule No. 8, for misdemeanors, level 8, 9 or 10 non-person felonies, level 4 drug felonies or DUI.
This effectively turned the county courthouse into a bail bonding operation which has, in turn, cost some local bonding firms 30% or more of their revenues.
It’s also resulted in the Court trying to shoehorn anything they can into that $2,500.00 limit or below.
The reason: They get the float on the cash and, if the person makes it through the entire legal shuck and jive process, they get to keep the 10% fee. And if the accused screws up, they keep it all.
There are several agencies to blame, according to my sources.
First, County Commissioners allegedly are applying pressure to lower the county’s jail population. In the brand new, state-of-the-art Gardner jail, where the inmate count was averaging 1,000-1,100 a few years back, I’m told it’s now closer to 600.
The reasoning for it; “Why have an offender sitting in jail as a cost causer when you can release them on bail, straight into a program or programs where they become revenue producers?”
Same model as the corporate world; you’re either a cost center or a revenue producer.
Care for a little justice, anyone?
Once released, you become part of a plan or a program, that includes but is not limited to Diversion, Bond supervision, Residential / House Arrest, SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring), ankle bracelets, drug/alcohol treatment or anger management (if all else fails).
So instead of providing you four hots and a cot – costing the country money – you’re making them money. That’s right folks, the name of the game is FEE$ and apparently they are learning how to play the game well in the 66061.
What’s worse, one of the leading bondsmen in the metro tells me word of this flows through the criminal element like wild fire. Which is maybe why we’re seeing more and more crime in Johnson County.
And this time around, it’s not tied to or blamed on undocumented immigrants. Word on the mean streets is, “If you get arrested in Johnson County, you may do a day, or a week, but you’re going to get out and go home.”
“The Judges need to open their eyes, stop trying to appease the Commissioners in hopes of getting a new courthouse and the Commissioners need to allow the Sheriff’s Department do its job and the Judges to return “justice” to the Justice system,” I was told.
And also, Steve Howe, the District Attorney, gets his fair share of pot shots, with one source telling me, “Steve is an awesome DA for the criminal element – he’s a great politician – but he’s falling way short on his job of providing justice with way too many cases lost or pleaded out.”
As a side note, the observation was made that this decline started when the courts began allowing people to come to them directly, without an attorney, and modify a ticket from a moving to a non-moving violation.
If you want to, take that as an overriding example of what’s wrong – something that says – “We want your money more than justice.”
I’ve done it – it’s great for my insurance premium – but the bottom line question remains, is that justice?
Once again, it’s all about the money.
No, it’s not a shock. We see examples across every level of our government, but that bar seems to be moving lower and lower with hardly anyone left without their hand out.
I reached out to Michael Ashcraft on the Board of Commissioners for his thoughts on this and he agreed to call me.
Stay tuned; film at 11:00.