Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gangs of Waco play time-honored game of 'Ringolevio'

It's a game. A game played on the streets of New York, for as long as anyone can remember. It's called Ringolevio, and the rules are simple. There are two sides, each with the same number of players. There are no time limits, no intermissions, no substitutes and no weapons allowed. There are two jails. There is one objective. Each side tries to capture and jail all the members of the other side, while maintaining the freedom of its own teammates. When everyone on one side is captured, the other team wins. - “Ringolevio: A life played for keeps,” Emmett Grogan, New York Review of Books Classics, New York, 2008.
Emmett Grogan, Merry Prankster, co-founder of The Diggers

Six Shooter Junction -Though it's not played in exactly the way it was played in the medieval port cities of Genoa and Naples, Palermo and Venice, this elaborate game of hide and go seek is deadly serious and very, very expensive.

In fact, large corporations bet large sums on its outcome, as did the middles ages combinations of merchants and shipping executives, importers and landlords, and the post-war gangsters and gamblers of New York's Cosa Nostra families, who staged enormous latter-day tournaments between the street gangs of post-war New York in the fifties and sixties.

Their motive: gambling. Everybody wanted a piece of the action to see which side would lose all its players to the others' jail first.

In the very real life of 21st century America, the gamble is the same, but it's played out on the streets, its results written in blood, a deadly game gone wrong in a world spinning madly out of control.

The bet: Will the accused show up for trial, arraignment, any other form of court appearance, or will the surety bonding company stand to lose a sizable amount of funds placed on the off chance that the accused does, in fact, take it on the lam?

Once bonded, the body of the defendant actually becomes the chattel property of the bonding agency, or “bondsman.” His bail agents – a polite term for bounty hunter - need no other writ to pursue and place him in custody, other than the court documents that show the origin of his freedom. They literally own his body. They are legally authorized to use deadly force to reclaim its possession, if need be.

To the professional criminal, it's a cost of doing business. To society, it's a cost of the quality of life.

The rules, of course, are quite different than those used in Mr. Grogan's accounts of the huge Ringolevio games played in his youth on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
In today's mean streets, the players definitely carry – and use – weapons. Shotguns. Pistols. Assault rifles powerful enough to penetrate brick walls.

The business: Drugs.

It's nationwide and all over the map. And it's here to stay, in big cities, small towns, metropolitan areas and rural backwoods counties alike.

Fifty cents worth of nothing with a mark-up of thousands of percentage points, the profits measured in terms of gain and loss in human souls, blood, misery, as measured against the fabulous wealth obtained by only the few – some shrewd, others outrightly luck, and still others vicious and mean enough to kill at will, in the blink of an eye, the flash of a hand sign, the turn of a phrase.

A recent survey of the bonding agencies active in McLennan County reveals that 20 firms – 12 of them sole proprietorships – compete for the ten percent fees collected on bonds set by area judges of about $35,000,000, according to figures on file for fiscal year 2011-2012.

That adds up to $3.5 million in bond fees for the players if you figure a 10 percent fee on each transaction.

The only rules governing the finances of the business are that sole proprietorships must place a minimum $50,000 cash bond backed either by certificates of deposit or real property deeds.

Should these operators' surety reserves fall below the minimum required to bond an accused offender out of custody, they are required to hustle to a bank and arrange to replenish their supply of cash guarantee, according to County Treasurer Bill Helton.

Chartered corporate insurance companies such as Allegheny Casualty Insurance or International Fidelity are considered good for the risk based on the corporate charters issued in the base states of operation.

The U.S. Constitutional guarantee of reasonable bail and the Texas Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure both apply. Bond shall not be excessive to the point that is it used as a punishment against one who has been accused of a crime.

Put up the dough, and you can go, but there is a wrinkle in that scheme. Excessive jail overcrowding has been deemed a cruel and unusual form of punishment. County governments are often forced to find alternate means of clearing out their jails to avoid expensive sanctions imposed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. This involves paying other counties or commercial enterprises large amounts of money to house, care for and feed prisoners from their jurisdictions.

The case of Steven Peace is one such case that falls within the well-known and worn-out dynamic.

A Grand Jury indicted Mr. Peace for the shooting death of Emuel Bowers, III in 2010. Prosecutors are seeking to prove that the murder of two young men and maiming of two others who sat in a car at Lakewood Villas Apartments in March of 2011 was carried out in retaliation for the Bowers killing, a brutal method of settling some unknown conflict over a business practice or arrangement involving drugs. Ricky Cummings, 23, is facing a jury in 19th Criminal District Court at present for those killings. He is the first of four defendants who will answer to the charge of capital murder in the case.

In a first ever case of a personal recognizance release of a McLennan County offender indicted for murder, local attorney Alan Bennett arranged the release of his client Steven Peace in December of 2011 on a writ of habeas corpus because prosecutors had failed to announce they were ready for trial within the 90 days allowed under criminal procedure rules. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered the case remanded to a McLennan County Criminal District Court for a bond reduction. The release was obtained by placing two $50,000 chattels against Mr. Peace's real property and the terms of his release house arrest under electronic monitoring by an ankle bracelet.

No comments:

Post a Comment