Comment: 'What the Heck is Going on?'
For the second time in a month, Patch readers question bail set for a suspected criminal.
Patch readers have again taken notice of bail set for a suspected criminal that allowed him to pay and walk away from the courthouse.
On Nov. 17, Howard County Police were investigating a stolen car when, according to a police report, they spotted a man walking away from a Columbia house in a black jacket, ski mask and gloves.
Robert W. Stone, 43, of Columbia, was arrested and charged with burglary, as well as car theft and resisting arrest. He appeared before Court Commissioner Lori Schulhoff, who set his bail at $150,000, and he was released on $15,000 bond.
Reader comments echoed reactions to an article about a duo suspected of several kick-in robberies who were released on bail and failed to appear for their scheduled hearing:
Colliemom: “He quite literally was caught red handed and they RELEASED him on bail? What the heck is going on in Howard County?”
Cola MD: “Someone PLEASE tell me this releasing of criminals on bail is going to stop!!! Or does a resident who confronts one of these guys and gets hurt of killed in the process going to be what it takes for people to wake up. Absolutely ridiculous...”
Liz G.: “Why are the bonds set so low that these thieves can manage to find a way to pay their way out of jail? Is our court system that overwork that they can't find a way to put these people away as punishment for their crimes?”
Stone is well-known in the Howard County court system. He has been arrested several times in the past 10 years and twice has pleaded guilty to vehicle thefts.
After his Nov. 17 arrest, police said they quickly linked him to additional burglaries. A warrant was issued and he was arrested in Baltimore City, where he is being held.
Terri Bolling, spokesperson for the Maryland Judiciary, which oversees the court commissioners, said she could not comment on why a particular bail amount was set in a specific case, but she said, when determining bail, “The prior record is considered in the decision process.”
Bolling referred to the Maryland Rule (4-261, Pretrial release) which describes the process and states, “commissioners must consider a number of factors,” including, but not limited to:
- Any recommendation of the State's Attorney
- A recommendation of an agency that conducts pretrial release investigations
Assistant State’s Attorney Natasha Byus said she recommended Stone be held on “$200,000 cash” – that is, he could not employ the service of a bail bondsman (who acts as a guarantor on behalf of the accused and is bound to pay the full bail if the accused does not return to court), but would have to pay up front.
“Common sense and history,” Byus said when asked what factors come into play when she makes a bail recommendation.
“Criminal history, previous bond amounts, how a person has performed while they’re out on bond and if they have failed to appear in court … these are things that are important for the state to factor in as well as community safety.”
Sherry Llewellyn, spokesperson for the Howard County Police, said that the department does not make bail recommendations.