Bail error untangled
WESTMINSTER -- A man arrested two weeks ago in Westminster on an outstanding Connecticut theft charge was in court last week trying to figure out which of two bail amounts set in the case was correct.
Robert Lee Jones, who has been held in the Carroll County Detention Center for about a week, asked Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. on Wednesday to determine whether he was eligible for the $5,000 bail Beck set last Friday or whether he was bound to the no-bail stipulation set by District Judge Donald F. Smith four hours later.
Jones had posted the required 10 percent of the $5,000 and was free when a state trooper arrested him as a Maryland Governor's Warrant was issued. Such a warrant is a first step in extradition proceedings.
Beck had upheld the $5,000 bond figure -- believed to have been set by a court commissioner and later approved by a District Court judge -- but had failed to instruct Jones of his rights regarding extradition.
Later in the day, Smith ruled that, since a governor's warrant had been issued, Jones should be held without bail pending an extradition hearing.
Jones' public defender, Edward Barry, argued that holding a person on two different bail amounts for the same crime was unjust.
"The Constitution says everyone is entitled to bail," he told Beck. "I am not asking the court to review his bail; I am asking it to allow it to stand. He is illegally detained."
Barton F. Walker III, an assistant state's attorney, argued that because of the outstanding governor's warrant, letting Jones out on bail would be risky.
"This whole thing flies in the face of logic," the prosecutor said. "If you let the defendant out, you give him the opportunity to flee. Only a short period of time is necessary for his [extradition hearing] to take place, and I think a couple of weeks in the detention center is not inappropriate."
Barry countered, "I would submit that the impending court date is irrelevant here. Even if his hearing is 20 minutes from now, he is being detained illegally."
The judge did not agree. Saying that he erred last Friday when he failed to advise Jones of his extradition rights, Beck upheld Smith's order of no bond.
Man given reprieve
WESTMINSTER -- Relying on a night with a 90-day sentence hanging over the defendant's head, Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. on Wednesday gave a 22-year-old man convicted of theft a chance to get out of jail and clear his criminal record.
"You should get on the ball, and do something meaningful, like become a taxpayer," the judge told Norman Michael Miller as he granted a probation before judgment (PBJ) in a misdemeanor theft and possession of drug paraphernalia conviction.
The PBJ was given a day after Beck had convicted and sentenced him for stealing a leather coat out of a car and possessing a marble marijuana pipe. Miller could have been sentenced to 18 months in state prison.
By offering the probation before judgment, Beck has given Miller an opportunity to complete probation and wipe the conviction from his record.
As Miller left the courtroom, he thanked Beck, who told him to find a job and get some direction in his life.
Beck said, however, that should Miller be convicted of a crime again, he would end up "serving some time in the Department of Corrections."