The Action News Investigators are getting swift action tonight from court officials. Thursday night, Investigator Heather Catallo showed you how, for decades, courts in our region have failed to pursue tens of millions of dollars in bond money when accused criminals skip out on their court date. Now one court is going after one of the accused criminals we told you about.
Corey Deshawn Gaston has been on the run since 2007, when he was charged with the rape and kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl. The bail bond company responsible for Gaston was never notified to look for him, and the court never went after the company for the bulk of the $200,000 in bond money, until now.
Notice finally arrived today, more than three years since Gaston was charged. Now, “You Walk Bail Bonds” of Detroit has finally been told what it should have been years ago: find this accused rapist, or pay the court his bounty.
It comes hours after our initial report, and today, Wayne County’s CEO told us fixing the court’s bond system is long overdue. Chief Judge Virgil Smith recently sued the county executive’s office, saying the court’s not properly funded. Ficano says the court isn’t being fiscally responsible.
“Obviously I’m disappointed, because we have been in litigation with the Third Circuit Court and we’ve always been saying that instead of trying to manage through litigation, to try to find ways to manage better, and it was disappointing,” said Ficano.
“We’re asking the Supreme Court to step in and say, okay, you might be a great judge, you might be good on the law, does not mean you’re a good fiscal manager. And that’s what we need in these tough times," he added.
The Action News Investigators exposed how accused criminals have been skipping court and walking free without being pursued for the lion's share of their bond money— the court’s single most powerful tool to pressure a defendant to show up in court.
By our estimate, it’s left almost $65 million in uncollected, forfeited bond since the 1980s. It’s an issue that was brought to the attention of the Third Circuit Court about six years ago, Ficano says, but needed reforms were never made.
“That’s a lot of money and that would have saved us, a lot of what we could do in the county, because we’ve been sued, and the court keeps demanding more money,” said Ficano.
County employees like Joyce Ivory expressed frustration today. She and others have lived through slashes in salaries, budgets and services for years.
“Bonding has been going on for many, many years. And it should not have taken Channel 7 to investigate this particular incident for them to get up and start doing something about it,” said Ivory.
And then there’s the issue of public safety. At both Third Circuit and 36th District Court, officials have failed to notify bond companies when their clients— accused criminals— skip out on their court date. That means they haven’t been pursued, and are free to commit more crimes while they’re on the run. Today, former 2nd Deputy Police Chief and now city council member James Tate said he was disturbed by our report.
“We all deserve to have a reasonable assurance that those individuals that commit crimes will be prosecuted. We’re talking millions and millions of dollars here… I am pleased that Judge Kenny and Judge Atkins have agreed there needs to be a review, and they’re going to be doing things differently. We do want to see, as residents in the city, what’s going to be done differently before someone else gets hurt, because this is a very, very serious situation,” said Tate.
The presiding judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Timothy Kenny, has given orders to start going after bond aggressively. It’s the first step in getting accused criminals to turn themselves in. We want to point out that this problem with not pursuing bond started long before Judge Kenny took over the criminal division. The judge was very forthcoming and he promised reform as soon as we brought this problem to his attention.
If you have a tip for the Action News Investigative Team, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.
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