Drama unfolded at Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia on Friday when Counselor Sam Cooper, president of the Montserrado County Bar Association, could not give account of six of the seven persons whose bail he secured.
The failure of the defendants to appear in court was enough for Judge Yarmie Q. Gbeisay to punish Cllr. Cooper with a US$100 fine.
Cllr. Cooper took responsibility of seven defendants as surety if they (defendants) did not live up to the terms of release to reappear in court during the trial and, as it happened, six (6) of them did not appear in court.
Judge Gbeisay’s fine was described as ‘lenient’ because of the number of defendants, and Cllr. Cooper, apparently relieved, later commented, “This is the kind of judge we need in our courts, the one who understands the issue.”
Judge Gbeisay had warned Cllr. Cooper, “If the money is not paid within 48 hours, you are going to be detained. You are a senior lawyer and should be knowledgeable about the law.”
He later authorized his clerk to prepare a writ so that the Ministry of Justice can re-arrest the six defendants.
Moreover, the criminal court judge revoked Cooper’s initial bail bond secured for the defendants, meaning money or property used for the bail would now be confiscated by the court.
Under the law, failing to appear in court after being bailed out of jail is a very serious crime, which always results in the surety being responsible to bear all necessary penalty associated with it.
Usually, it is insurance companies that post bail bonds for defendants, either in cash or property worth the crime for which they are charged, with the company collecting a 10 percent non- refundable fee.
Defendant Johnny Hills, the only person to honor his bail obligation, and his co-defendants, whose whereabouts are unknown, were charged with criminal ‘conveyance’ (a surveyor who conspires with another person to sell a parcel of land they don’t have title to, and carries a prison term of 10 years) of land for allegedly selling 6½ acres of land in the Johnsonville area, outside Monrovia.
A legal expert who asked not to be named told this newspaper that filing bond for a person charged with a criminal offence, especially theft, is becoming a very profitable venture for lawyers throughout the country.
“Lawyers are using the bond now for marketing purposes, because they would charge defendants huge sums of money to secure it. They sometimes bribe judges to release the accused on a bond even if they do not have the commensurate cash or property required,” the expert claimed.