Waco--When Ben Morrison walked out of McLennan County Jail on June 1, he was accused of 8 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a female child over a period of several years.
The incidents started when the girl was only 8 years old and Mr. Morrison was a computer technology student living in campus housing at TSTC.
Today, he is at large under an indictment returned last week for the 8 counts of sexual assault, plus an additional count of continuing sexual abuse.
It bothers R.S. Gates, a licensed peace officer with more than 20 years experience who started as a turnkey in the County Jail, then worked his way up as a crime scene technician, patrol officer and detective, that Mr. Morrison, 37, of Bruceville, lives near his home in the countryside near Moody.
Use of electronic GPS bracelets to monitor the whereabouts and movements of accused sexual predators, drunk drivers, those accused of domestic violence and other offenders with medical problems could save taxpayers as much as $1 million a year in jail costs, he told Commissioners.
He joined the Chief of the investigating agency, the Texas State Technical College Police Department, Rob Williams, and Abel Reyna, a seasoned member of the criminal defense bar who is running as a Republican candidate for District Attorney, in their concerns that the system can find no way to house Mr. Morrison due to the nature of his medical condition and the seriousness of the offenses for which he is charged.
He suggested this may be a factor in the drastic action of allowing him his freedom while such heinous charges are pending.
Mr. Gates made it clear he is not criticizing the two magistrates who took the action of releasing the man on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond that required no outlay of a fee for his release.
"I never had and do not now have any reason to question the actions of the Judges. The chief of the investigating agency and a candidate for Criminal District Attorney both find this to be an unusual circumstance," Mr. Gates said in prepared remarks delivered during the public comment session of the Commissioners' Court meeting Tuesday morning.
"News reports I have read indicate Morrison was arrested at the V.A. Hospital. This is important because the cost of housing a prisoner is $45.50 a day, a prisoner with special medical needs might cost taxpayers hundreds of dollars a day."
Mr. Gates said the fee for electronic monitoring "while less than $13.00 a day (the approximate cost of GPS monitoring) is an 80% savings, the reality is implementation of electronic monitoring which allows for house arrest could save hundreds of thousands of dollars because people with special medical needs would be responsible for their own care."
Civigenics, Inc., which operates the McLennan County Jail as a private contractor, bills taxpayers $45.50 per diem for each prisoner.
Mr. Gates anticipated criticism of his wife owning Seymour Detection Services as a possible "conflict of interest" on his part, but defended his concern because her organization charges no start-up costs to place an inmate on monitoring.
"...Commissioner Ray Meadows was quoted saying implementation of electronic monitoring could save taxpayers $800,000 a year," he went on. The estimate was given in the year 2007.
"That number today is closer to $1 million."
Past estimates have been as high as $65 per day for electronic GPS monitoring, he noted. The device used by his wife, Utahna Gates, in her business includes real-time alcohol use monitoring and constant surveillance of those accused of domestic violence to see that they do not violate protective orders by encroaching upon areas they have been ordered to stay out of.
Under the terms of a new state law, H.R. 1506, accused perpetrators of domestic violence may be required by judges to pay for the service in order to secure their release under bond.