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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Public defender challenges Harford bail decisions

A public defender told a Harford County District Court judge Tuesday he believes the state is acting illegally by holding people without bond for misdemeanor charges.

During bail review hearings in Bel Air, Thomas Bahr, an assistant public defender, challenged Judge Mimi Cooper's decision to hold several people without bail.

"We are getting a lot of people held without bond on misdemeanor charges, which I think is unconstitutional," Bahr told Cooper during the bail review of Laura Jeppi, who was charged with violating probation in a case in which she received probation before judgment for a drinking and driving offense. Jeppi, a resident of Perryville, was arrested Tuesday, according to court records.

"I would argue it is a blatant violation of the 8th Amendment," he said, referring to the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments.

Cooper revised Jeppi's bail to $5,000, but Bahr explained Jeppi's paperwork, as well as that of other defendants, had been stamped as "held without bond," which precluded them from potentially being released earlier had bail been granted by a court commissioner at the time of their arrest.

Bahr said he was "confused" by what Cooper's decision meant when the original stamp already said no bail.

"I believe any time these cases are stamped, it is unconstitutional and they are being held on no bail," he said, asking Cooper if she was aware of that.

Cooper replied she was not, but made no other comments on the issue.

The judge did, however, order three other people, charged with probation violations or failure to appear, to be held without bail Tuesday.

Heather Hare was charged with violating probation in a case in which she was charged with three counts of theft less than $100, four counts of a credit card charge, two counts of theft less than $1,000, stealing another's credit card and scheming to commit a theft less than $1,000. Cooper wanted her to see Judge Victor Butanis before receiving bail.

Olivia Stricker was charged with violating probation in a case in which she was charged with possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Zenobia Council was charged with failing to appear for a case in which she was charged with fourth-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree assault. Cooper noted she had a previous history of drug distribution charges.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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