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Bond amount raises questions

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Updated: 5/01/2013 7:03 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — Some may be asking why J. Everett Dutschke was even out of jail prior to his arrest by the federal government in connection with the ricin letter case.

His release was made possible after his bail was reduced in February from $1 million to $25,000.

This came following his arrest in January when he was charged with child molestation.

"He made bond on the appeal bond of $600, and then he turned around and made bond on $25,000 on two felony charges," said Jim Johnson, Lee County sheriff. "He was released that day."

Johnson said if his agency would have had the opportunity to have any say in the matter, there would not have been a chance for Dutschke to be free and to be potentially involved in sending ricin case letters to government officials.

"We were never notified of a hearing," added Johnson. "We never got to present any evidence before the court, and it was a concern of ours that we were not notified and were able to at least give our side and notify the victims because then we were in a scramble to contact the victims that this individual is fixing to be released and back out in the general public."

A prominent north Mississippi attorney said it is not uncommon to have bail amounts reduced and explained why a judge would sign off on a drastically reduced bail amount.

"The initial charge where he has the $25,000 bail, that would have been a reasonable bail for somebody charged with the offenses he was charged with at the time," said Jim Waide, attorney. "A lot of times, these judges will set a $1 million bail just as a public interest, just to get attention, and nobody seriously thinks that's the real amount of the bail."

District Attorney Trent Kelly said the $25,000 bond was consistent with other crimes of the same nature.

He said Dutschke's attorney, Lori Basham, filed a motion to reduce the $1 million bond, arguing that such a high bond was, in essence, denying her client bond.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gardner was the one who signed off on the reduced bond.

He declined to comment on the bond reduction citing the ongoing federal investigation involving Dutschke.

The district attorney said the prosecutor in his office decided against contesting the bond reduction because it would have required presenting evidence in the case, a legal move the prosecution did not want to make so early in the process.
After Dutschke was indicted on three counts of fondling, prosecutors asked the court to raise bond to $150,000 — $50,000 for each count.  The court kept the bond at $25,000.

Kelly said the prosecutor in his office handling the case acted based on the facts at the time.  He added the point of setting a bond in the first place is not to punish a defendant but to make sure that person appears in court.
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