By R.S. Gates and
The Legendary Jim Parks
Waco - Even a cursory examination of the records of several thousand offenders set free on personal recognizance bonds during a recent two-year period shows that some offenders re-offended many times and judges revoked their bonds, only to be released again on their personal recognizance.
Perhaps the most egregious and disturbing cases are those of persons accused of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and continuing sexual abuse of a child who were released without having to pay a bond fee.
Readers may wish to consider these three cases – for a start.
Anthony Jerome Clemons has been jailed by Waco and Baylor policemen numerous times and released on his personal recognizance by Jail Magistrate Raymond Britton for offenses such as criminal mischief, terroristic threat, criminal trespassing and failure to identify himself to a police officer who had arrested him for other offenses.
In each case Judge Britton released him on his personal recognizance - 11 times in all - on dates extending from March of 2009 to the same month of this year.
In one case, Mr. Clemons' PR bond was revoked, but the judge released him on the same day and again three days later on a personal recognizance bond, for which the bond fee was waived.
Waco Police charged Rhiannon Paige Smith with 4 felony offenses of sexual assault of a child, both by mouth and by penetration of the sexual organs, on April 15, 2009. On the same day, they charged her with continuing sexual abuse of a child and in each case State 19th Criminal District Judge Ralph Strother authorized Waco Municipal Judge John Roberts to release her on her personal recognizance. Bond fee was waived.
Jonathan Walker walked away from the county lockup free on May 1, 2009, after Waco Police charged him with three counts of sexual assault of a child on May 1, 2009. Judge Roberts waived the fee on all three counts, according to the PR Bond Activity Report obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff's Office through a Texas Open Records Act Public Information request.
Records Division officials charged $68.54 for “programming” the database record to be transmitted as an electronic instrument and one additional dollar for the CD upon which the 3,484 records of offenses for which accused criminals were released for no fee upon their personal recognizance between the dates of Jan. 1, 2009 and Oct. 21, 2010.
Because the database records are not in their native format, it is impossible to automatically search and sort the offenses by type and date. One factor which eases the process of studying the matter is that all headings are by alphabetized last names.
Nevertheless, the going is slow and laborious. The effort requires one to examine each record individually.
In the development of this story, a journalist is reminded that there is an extremely fine line between news and history. Public information requests for the PR Bond Activity Report under the provisions of the Texas Open Records Act have languished unfulfilled due to one technicality or the other for a year.
Nevertheless, The Legendary will settle for what facts may be gleaned for this particular First Edition regarding this historical matter between now and Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, mid-term General Election Day.
Watch these columns for more facts and figures regarding this phenomenon of revolving door catch and release prosecution of the prowlers and predators who ply the streets of Waco, seemingly at will and free of the bonds of any surety-backed promise to appear before the bench of justice at such time as the prosecution and the Court is ready for trial.