Wo­man held af­ter high bail ap­peal

De­fen­dant who chal­lenged fig­ure set de­tained to en­sure safety of her al­leged vic­tim

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

A Bal­ti­more wo­man who ap­pealed a bail that a judge said she knew she couldn’t pay is now be­ing held with­out bail.

Cir­cuit Judge Charles Peters granted a new bail hear­ing for Ni­cole Easley on Tues­day. But he said he be­lieved there would be no pre­trial con­di­tions that could en­sure the safety of her al­leged vic­tim.

Easley is ac­cused of stab­bing her boyfriend in the stom­ach af­ter look­ing through his phone. She is charged with at­tempted mur­der.

Cir­cuit Judge Yolanda Tan­ner set Easley’s bail at $750,000 dur­ing a hear­ing in Septem­ber. At the bench, Tan­ner told one of her clerks that she knew Easley, who is tak­ing care of six chil­dren and was out of work, couldn’t pay — but she was “throw­ing her a bone.”

The re­mark was picked up by court­house record­ing equip­ment. For de­fense at­tor­neys and bail re­form ad­vo­cates who have long sus­pected judges were set­ting high bails know­ing de­fen­dants wouldn’t be able to pay, it was re­veal­ing.

Mary­land rules re­quire that bail be used to only as­sure a de­fen­dant shows up for trial. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh re­cently wrote an opin­ion say­ing hold­ing de­fen­dants in jail when they can’t af­ford to pay cash bail was likely un­con­sti­tu­tional.

But the al­ter­na­tive, as Easley found out Tues­day, could be more de­fen­dants be­ing held with­out bail.

Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more law pro­fes­sor Colin Starger, who at­tended Tues­day’s hear­ing, said or­der­ing peo­ple held with­out bail is also prob­lem­atic.

In Easley’s case, he said, the dif­fer­ence is moot. She couldn’t pay $750,000, and now she is be­ing held with­out bail.

But he said Peters’ de­ci­sion at least com­ported with the Mary­land rules.

“Hav­ing clar­ity is help­ful, and then we can move the sys­tem in the di­rec­tion so the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence is main­tained,” Starger said.

Assistant State’s At­tor­ney Sta­cie Sawyer told Peters at the out­set of the hear­ing that Easley should not be granted bail. She said the vic­tim’s in­juries took hours of surgery to re­pair and Easley lied to po­lice about the in­ci­dent.

Easley’s at­tor­neys ar­gued that she had no crim­i­nal con­vic­tions and “no in­di­ca­tion she is vi­o­lent by na­ture.” They said she could be re­leased un­der home mon­i­tor­ing or reg­u­lar check-ins with pre­trial ser­vices.

An or­der to stay away from the vic­tim was al­ready in place.

“She has no de­sire to have any con­tact with the vic­tim,” said Adam Sha­reef, a law stu­dent with Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more’s Pre­trial Jus­tice Clinic, which took on Easley’s ap­peal.

Peters called the al­le­ga­tions against Easley “pretty hor­rific” and ex­pressed con­cern about home de­ten­tion be­ing in­ef­fec­tive.

“Can’t [she] just get out?” he said. “What good would that do me?”

Sha­reef said Peters could im­pose an “un­se­cured bail,” in which the de­fen­dant does not have to put any money down but is on the hook for the amount if they do not ap­pear in court.

“It’s not a mat­ter of bail,” Peters said. “It’s a mat­ter of ac­cess” to the vic­tim.

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