Paul Wilson: What’s Wrong With the Johnson County Money Machine

lady justice not blindLet’s Play Johnson County Jeopardy…

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-price-of-justice-a-true-story-of-greed-and-corruption_originalThe consensus; the Johnson County Court system is turning into a financial institution.

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.”

justice_0425_BH130_605138aSo, I started looking into what that really means.

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?

taxunclesamyouOnce 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.

Steve Howe

Steve Howe

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.

 

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33 Responses to Paul Wilson: What’s Wrong With the Johnson County Money Machine

  1. Mark says:

    And your point is what? Bailbondsmen and courthouse lawyers make less money, we taxpayers save and indigent offenders (including many first timers) don’t have to spend time in the slammer learning the fine points of flim flamming from repeat felons. Sounds like a good system to this Johnson Countian. What am I missing (I didn’t miss your anti-Semitic aside)?

  2. chuck says:

    I don’t know if I like it or don’t like it, but you sure did a great job following up on the article yesterday and shed some light not only on Kaplan (Who should have been under some scrutiny by law enforcement for the foreseeable future.) but how the mechanism works in JoCo.

    Nice job.

    I am ok with the terminology, ORCD bonds.

    I think it will work in Missouri where so many seem to have already ORCD out and are back on the streets.

  3. paulwilsonkc says:

    Mark, I really don’t know how I feel, that’s still formulating in me. Going through the system for a raunchy divorce, I saw it both ways, that’s as close to the JoCo court system as I’ve been and saw some hard to describe stuff. I went in Pro Se, lost about $300K along the way when it should have been a slam dunk on the merits. Hired Joe Norton, never lost another thing, won things I never should have.
    And as an aside, I’m not anti Semitic, “Jewish Lawya” was meant as satire. My apologies if it didnt come across as such; I thought the spelling would have given it away.

    Chuck, thanks as usual.

    Oh, one last thing. Misdomeaner shoplifting can get you 1 year 1 day in the 66061. Felony theft, Probation. It’s like the coke/crack disparity. While I’m all for low level offenders not being incarcerated, I guess Id like to sense there a psychology behind this movement OTHER THAN you cost me money or MAKE me money. I would rather see incarceration reform come into play more than a balance sheet for those decisions.

    • the dude says:

      Thou shall be flogged 500 licks for retarding the capitalist march.
      Nobody retards the capitalist march, nobody.

  4. smartman says:

    Ditto what Chuck said.

    I doubt that a Latino or African American male accused of similar criminal work product would have gotten the same treatment.

    Sounds too “orderly” for a system and enterprise that involves the biggest genus, or more properly “genera” of c*nts; judges, lawyers, politicians and criminals….and I’m still not sure which is the higher evolved species.

    • mike says:

      Unless t was a rich Latino or African American male. Kyle James would fee right at home over there.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Smarty, I’m talking to a attorney friend for my next follow up and here’s a tease. (No, not the Craig kind)
      This may not stick based on the definition of Kansas stalking laws. It requires a pattern of behavior, usually defined as more than one event. Hence, no “pattern”.
      Wouldn’t that make you throw up in your mouth a little?

  5. mike says:

    I think it stinks. It is like traffic enforcement. You have a different set of rules if you can buy your way out of charges. The founding fathers did not intend for our criminal justice system to be a business instead of administering justice. No wonder these spoiled rich kids over there think they can do anything they want. This is only one step away from the justice system in New Orleans where they bribe law enforcement to get a carte blanche to disobey the law with impunity.

  6. dreamwriter326 says:

    Courts set bond as an assurance the person will show up for trial, not as a means of punishment. If this Kaplan kid lives in the area and has no criminal record — and the judge is confident he’ll show in what really is a weak case, despite the fact that a Johnson County woman was freaked out — setting a low bond so he doesn’t have to spend time behind bars makes sense.

    If all he did was follow this woman around in his car late at night while wearing a ski mask but did nothing outwardly threatening otherwise, it doesn’t seem like much of a crime. (It’s insignificant whether he had lube, unless it can be proven he planned to use it on the woman). It seems like the most that would happen to him is he is given a no-contact order, a citation for the weed, and sent on his way.

    Paul, your investigation is laudable, but it seems like a lot of work for what is a fairly insignificant case that probably will end up with all but the pot charge dropped. That said, your columns are better than most on this site (despite occasional ill-conceived bashing of things that don’t interest you) and you definitely add some variety to what was becoming a tired site before Glaze was sent packing.

    Cheers and have a nice weekend.

    • Super Dave says:

      +1

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      “That said, your columns are better than most on this site (despite occasional ill-conceived bashing of things that don’t interest you) and you definitely add some variety to what was becoming a tired site before Glaze was sent packing. “

      Thanks, Dream, I accept your compliment and constructive criticism equally. Point of interest for me, however, in your ( ) you note my occasional ill-conceived bashing of things that don’t interest me. I found that very funny as I tend to bash a lot of things, mainly for the reaction or out of humor, but what, specifically, fits that category in your opinion? (Of course I mean outside of HARLEY, that’s obvious) I was trying to recall something I may have done that fit that, recently, and can’t come up with any. It just may be second nature to me and flies by in an aged fog.

      And, your points are well taken on the “crime”. I expect the stalking charges to get dropped after an exhaustive conversation with a criminal defense attorney. “Stalking” in Kansas, requires a pattern of behavior. Once isn’t a pattern. Now, where I have to disagree with you, as I said earlier to Orphan on email, If you’re legally wearing a face mask, I have no problem with that. It’s not my style, it makes my head look too big, but have at it. Now, that said, if you are following my wife, and in a nice, neat little package in the back seat you have lube, rope, gloves and a knife, as a victim of human nature, I’m going to make some “basic” assumptions about your intent. Wrong of me, maybe so, but I’m making those assumptions just the same.

      Some are trying to make a big deal out of, “Well, the lube COULD HAVE BEEN hand lotion, whats illegal about hand lotion?”. The Police know what they are saying and how to pick clean word usage. If it was Jergens Skin So Soft, they would have said that. If it was BMW private labeled 10-20W motor oil, WD40, they would have said so. They said LUBE. I’m betting AstroGlide, but Im not Madam Cleo.

      On the point of the bond, a major player in that business commented along the lines of what I already knew, 5 years ago that would have been a $10K gig, plain and simple. No, I don’t think he should be setting in jail, I’ll entrust that to mom and dad. I just think it was too small, but I could be wrong.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      • dreamwriter326 says:

        Kaplan sounds creepy and might have been planning to do something bad, but it would be hard to prove intent and as you said, the stalking law really doesn’t apply.

        As for the “ill-conceived bashing of things that don’t interest you,” I thought your comments about Kansas Speedway not being a place you’d want to watch a NASCAR race were a little off the mark. I’ve been to some of the most popular tracks (Daytona, Indy, Bristol) and by far prefer the one in Kansas in several categories, including ability to see the whole race (not so much Daytona and Indy) without going deaf (at Bristol it gets so loud you can literally taste metal), and the ease with which you can get to and out of the track on race days (it took to hours just to get out of the parking lot at Bristol).

        I written my share of columns over the years in various newspapers (not with The Star) and sometimes made comments intended as humor (they were damn funny to me) but they weren’t taken in the same vein by people who actually gave a crap about the subject being lambasted. I’ve found over the years that anytime you generalize on a topic (race fans, casino patrons) there will be people who take issue with it. I’ve never been offended by anything you’ve written, Paul, though there have been a few times when I thought, “Well that was pretty rude.” Not that any of that matters in the big picture, and I have zero emotional attachment to anything said in this or any other blog.

        Your writing has a certain sophistication that many other columnists lack, and I’m just saying comments like the Kansas Speedway ones (in response to at least two stories in recent days) are unnecessary distractions that deviate from the core of your work.

        That’s all. Rock on.

        • mike says:

          I guess it is a little bit like storming in the front door of a business with a ski mask on in the middle of summer, seeing an armed security guard, then walking out. Everybody has a pretty good idea what that person would be up to, but could you convict them of anything if they never displayed a weapon or demanded money? It is hard to prove intent or convict somebody for what you think they intended to do.

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          NASCAR? Dream, I bet you’re right on that one. Let me tell you what my intent was. I’m not a NASCAR fan, Super Dave is. I was actually poking fun at the SPORT, not the track… just for his sake. So, I made the comment, “there are two things you shouldn’t ever go to Kansas Speedway for; NASCAR or a CONCERT”…. just to get under SD’s skin.

          Actually, for the sake of full disclosure, I was a guest in a suite for opening day at Kansas Speedway. And, I took the son of a girl I was dating to the Indy car races there. I was also at opening day for Texas Motor Speedway, but just because it was a weekend trip with some guy friends in an outrageous motor home we took down, so it was more fun and party time than NASCAR.

          Thanks for pointing that out and you are correct. Kansas is one of the great tracks, likely doesn’t get what it deserves, but I’m an SCCA guy at heart, vintage racing specifically. I just had to toss one Dave’s way.

  7. smartman says:

    Word on the eastside is if this cracker shows up at UMKC to tickle the ivories it’s gonna be hard to do with broken fingers. It may not take a village to raise a child but sometimes it takes one to punish them.

    • Bob in KC says:

      smartman,

      i am appalled at your irresponsibility. Kaplan probably has as many friends in he “east “side as he does here in “west side”, this “kid” has been playing jazz in the “east side” since he was 14 and has many friends there. the nerve to assume that the “east side” has prejudged him and that he is not welcome there is pathetic not to mention ignorant. the lynch mob isn’t coming from that direction, it comes much closer to Kaplan’s home. word has it that the “victim” was so outraged at being scared that she took it upon herself to send out facebook and emails to everyone and anyone she knew (even before the news crews picked it up and even before Kaplan was released on the ORCD bond). She blanketed Johnson County and beyond (don’t think the “east side” though. between her direct communication (albeit erroneous and irresponsible) and your lovely friends (those that write those cute comments like the one I”m responding too), Kaplan is going to need protection from a “mob” that doesn’t even have a clue why they’re going after him.

  8. paulwilsonkc says:

    21-5427. Stalking. (a) Stalking is:

    (1) Recklessly engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person in the circumstances of the targeted person to fear for such person’s safety, or the safety of a member of such person’s immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear;

    PAUL – I think she clearly has this one. She knew she was being followed when she pulled out. Driving down the cul de sac, making a u turn and him still behind her would confirm it.

    (2) engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person with knowledge that the course of conduct will place the targeted person in fear for such person’s safety or the safety of a member of such person’s immediate family; or

    (f) As used in this section:

    (1) “Course of conduct” means two or more acts over a period of time, however short, which evidence a continuity of purpose. A course of conduct shall not include constitutionally protected activity nor conduct that was necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose independent of making contact with the targeted person. A course of conduct shall include, but not be limited to, any of the following acts or a combination thereof:

    PAUL – Depends on how closely you define two or more acts, but Im afraid this is where it will fall apart.

    (A) Threatening the safety of the targeted person or a member of such person’s immediate family;

    (B) following, approaching or confronting the targeted person or a member of such person’s immediate family;

    (C) appearing in close proximity to, or entering the targeted person’s residence, place of employment, school or other place where such person can be found, or the residence, place of employment or school of a member of such person’s immediate family;

    PAUL – I think she’s got all of these as well.

    (G) any act of communication;

    (2) “communication” means to impart a message by any method of transmission, including, but not limited to: Telephoning, personally delivering, sending or having delivered, any information or material by written or printed note or letter, package, mail, courier service or electronic transmission, including electronic transmissions generated or communicated via a computer

    PAUL – My argument here would be the wearing of the mask as she noted in the u-turn would be COMMUNICATION. I think that sends either the message of bad fashion sense or ill intent.

    But at the same time, I’m concerned that this girl has gone underground now. I’ve heard rumors from more than one source that there’s information not shared that may have a major bearing on the case.

    This case WILL HENGE on “course of conduct” and what’s the meaning of “two or more”? As i said, I expect it to get dropped with only the weed sticking. Hope I’m wrong, afraid Im right.

  9. smartman says:

    Then “We the people in order to form a more perfect union” need to take turns stalking this little Focker.

    I’ve always got rope, chain, duct tape, knife, machete and gun in my truck. No ski mask but I do have a balaclava, and some baklava from Mr. Gyro’s and always Astroglide in the glovebox for when we go to the drive-in.

    Let me know when the citizen watch begins

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Oh, Smarty… sometimes I read your comments and head STRAIGHT for the shower! As always, thanks for your indepth insight and persepctive.

    • mike says:

      YOU would probably get arrested for stalking if you did that!

  10. DSW-ESQ. says:

    For a misdemeanor case- everything that was done is not out of the ordinary so far, a $1500.00 bond for a case like the Defendants is a reasonable bond for a judicial system where there is a presumption of innocence. The media may heldnot be happy but how often do they blow cases out of proportion? And I would add that Mr. Covington is a very competent DA who wouldn’t have even known he was assigned the case at the time of the Defendant’s “first appearance” which would have been held in front of Judge Vokins- Let’s give this kid his day in Court- if he’s guilty of what he’s accused of- he will not get off lightly in JOCO- They don’t tolerate that type of behavior in that jurisdiction…

    • smartman says:

      Unless you’re a member of law enforcement and decide to do a little “role playing” with the wife, ex-wife, mistress, girlfriend, lover or one night stand…..THEN it’s ok.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, DSW. And, as I’ve said, my prediction is the charges will be dropped on the stalking issue. And, as with any case, he is innocent until proven otherwise. He’ll get diversion on the low level weed issue, I have no objections to that either.
      I guess where I battle my gut instinct vs. what we’ve heard, the totality of the items found in his car would be indicitve of something other than him headed out trout fishing. Thats the part that troubles me, where these cases fall apart only to come back with a vengence if and when an offense happens for real, second time around, with the same suspect. Then you get all the follow up stories about what happened BEFORE… and they shoulda, coulda woulda.

      Points well taken, thanks for the comment.

  11. chuck says:

    This is all pretty interesting from a legal and philisophical point of view.

    Lemme repeat, this miserable fu*k is gonna rape and or kill, it is only a matter of when.

    I am terrible with money, but this, this you can take to the bank.

  12. paulwilsonkc says:

    Chuck, this has my attention on several fronts and I plan on being in the Courtroom to see it progress. Just wrote an update to predict how the court case will end, but from a over reaching perspective, long term outside of court, I’m afraid you’re correct. If I’m right on the court outcome and you on the long term, I just wanna be there when people watch the evrning news and say, “Whaaaaat? How did THAT happen? You mean he was charged with this before? What JUDGE let HIM off?”
    And in the words of Paul Harvey, and now you know……the REST….of the story.

  13. Jason Williams says:

    Why are you so infatuated with this case? If this victim was a fat black girl in Shawnee (still Johnson County), would you still be so consumed with it? My guess, the answer is no and if this fictitious Shawnee girl wasn’t even fat, the answer would still be no.

    • mike says:

      What I wonder is that if this kid and his victim were black, if you would consider him being infatuated with that to be even more racist. It is easy to find racism when you are looking for it, even when it is not there.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Mike, you know what they say, if youre a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

  14. Bob Martin says:

    I’ve heard nothing in this case that is a crime except the possession of weed. That charge may not stick with a possible illegal search of the car. The second charge and 50k bail is ridiculous, he stood on a public sidewalk and stared into a public store for two hours…weird, but not a crime. The kid needs psychiatric help, not time in jail. He might hurt someone in the future, but jail will surely seal the deal. The bail was appropriate for the questionable first case, totally outrageous for the second charge.

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