It’s been about one year since a federal investigation brought down New Haven’s most prominent bail bond family, one week since a judicial marshal pled guilty to related bribery charges, and more than four years since a nonpartisan office found the potential for corruption in Connecticut’s bail bond system.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said Monday that this is the year the legislature needs to take action on a bill to reform the corrupt bail bond system.
Before a public hearing on the bill Monday, Lawlor said it should be a lot harder for those gaming the system to lobby against the legislation this year. “It is our obligation to re-write the laws to make sure this can’t happen again and it is the obligation of the executive branch to enforce these laws so that the integrity of our justice system is not undermined,” Lawlor said.
The bill would transfer oversight of the state’s troubled bail bond system to the Public Safety Department and require routine training of bail bondsmen.
Lawlor said bail bondsmen who pled guilty to corruption charges undercut the market by having their clients put up about 2 or 3 percent of the bond, instead of the requisite 10 percent, and in doing so, “put public safety at risk.” He said by letting these people out of jail on such little amounts of money it creates a churning effect. “Who is going to complain they were charged too little?” Lawlor said.
Lawlor said if they upheld the law and charged 10 percent of the bond then bonds would be lowered to more reasonable levels for everyone. He said judges and prosecutors have told him that bonds are set arbitrarily high because they’re aware this is happening.
According to federal court documents, the New Haven bail bond family, paid New Haven Police Lt. Billy White in cash to “influence and reward” him to “use his official position” to give them preferred treatment in tracking down fugitives. They also paid him to steer customers to their firm, according to US Attorney Nora Dannehy.
Jill D’Antona, the former judicial marshal who pled guilty last week to accepting bribes from the Jacobs family, served as a conduit between bail bondsmen and offenders arriving at lockup. Greasing D’Antona’s palm meant better, quicker access to prisoners in need of a bond.
Lawlor said it’s his understanding that the quicker the bail bondsmen gets to the offenders the better because once the Bail Commissioner arrives he can lower the bond to a promise to appear and out walks a bail bondsmen cut.
Click the play arrow and hear Lawlor talk about how the palm greasing worked. Editor’s note: It should be a moving video. We can’t figure out what’s wrong, but the audio is good.