Proposal for increase in minimum down payment for bail of violent offenders fails to pass

HOUSTON – The recommendation of the Harris County Commissioners Court to require that bonding companies collect a minimum percentage of bail before posting a surety bond did not secure enough votes to pass Wednesday night.

The breakdown of votes was 4-4. Five votes were needed to pass the proposal.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia joined the Harris County Bail Bond Board meeting Wednesday evening to discuss a proposal requiring 10% minimum of assessed bail to be paid down for certain people accused of violent crimes.

The proposal was made to help mitigate the rise of crime over the past years in the city of Houston and Harris County.

Supporters of the proposal said a standard percentage of what needs to be required by bail bond companies should be at least 10% of the bail. They believe this would stop the undercutting of the high bails being set by judges in violent cases, making it a little harder.

The opponents argued that the move was politically motivated and maintained that the bail bond board lacks the authority to implement such a rule change, saying that doing so would violate existing statutes or constitutional provisions.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis also spoke in favor of the plan, and representatives of Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the two high-ranking officials are in support as well.

During her opening statement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the nation is experiencing a gun violence pandemic and is alarmed this proposal is being pushed off. She said the board has the opportunity today to make a difference.

Garcia urged the board to do the right thing, stating it’s not about politics but families impacted by this. He said the loved ones of the victims are put in a state of fear when the suspects are back on the streets after they were given a 1% to 2% minimum bond. He said enforcing a 10% standard should be a no-brainer to help protect victims and keep neighborhoods safe.

Families of victims also spoke at the board meeting, including the family of Diamond Alvarez, a 16-year-old girl who was killed after police say her boyfriend shot her 22 times on Feb. 11. The boyfriend, Frank Deleon Jr., 17, was taken into custody and charged with murder but bonded out of jail after a $250,000 bond was set, according to court records. The family said since Deleon’s release, they have been receiving threats and are scared for their lives.

“I think it’s unfair, my family has been harassed, threatened continuously since Jan. 11. Since this happened, they’ve been ran off from the field and harassed in their homes. think its unfair that this man is out free,” Alvarez’s aunt said.

READ: Inside the Houston area’s violent year: 12 stories offer a glimpse into trauma, loss experienced in our area in 2021

A family member of David Castro, a teen who was killed after leaving an Astros game with his family during a road rage incident in July, was also in attendance. They, too, support the proposal. The suspect, Gerald Wayne Williams, the man accused in David’s death, turned himself into police after a month-long manhunt. Two months later, Williams made bail.

Many lawmakers in attendance said that there are many other additional improvements that need to be made to the criminal justice system but this would definitely be a good starting point.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the meeting is just the beginning of change in the community but that it also starts with accountability in the community.

“In my opinion, bail bond companies shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat, it’s an entire system,” Gonzalez said. “We have to be sure that we don’t have tunnel vision on this meeting and think this will solve everything ... we can’t paint everyone with a broad brush and say it’s the entire industry cause it’s not.”

The board went into a close session to review the matter further before taking a final note of the decision.

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