Bondsman Must Relinquish $100,000 Bail
A bail bondsman was ordered last week to forfeit $100,000 to Fulton County after he posted bail for alleged kidnapper Ricky Hann, who returned to the crime scene within 12 hours of being released from jail, murdered his ex-girlfriend and committed suicide.
In an opinion and order of the court issued late May 3, Judge Angela Rosenberry Krom of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas outlined the facts of an evidentiary hearing held April 19. The hearing details were followed in the order by a discussion on how Krom came to rule on the side of the commonwealth led by Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall.
Judge Krom noted in the order that professional bail bondsman Paul Weachter, who does business in both Fulton and Franklin counties, posted security on February 19 in the amount of $100,000, thereby securing the release of Mc- Connellsburg resident Ricky Hann. Hann had been arraigned earlier in the day on charges of kidnapping, burglary, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault.
“Hann signed a bail bond setting forth the standard conditions of the release, including ‘the defendant must refrain from criminal activity.’ Weachter signed the bail bond as the surety. Weachter had no contact with Hann after he bonded him out of the Franklin County Jail,” Krom detailed in the order.
Quoting Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure, Krom pointed out, “When a monetary condition of release has been imposed and the defendant has violated a condition of the bail bond, the bail authority may order the cash or other security forfeited and shall state in writing or on the record the reasons for doing so.”
Therefore the looming question in Krom’s mind was whether Hann indeed violated the conditions of his bail. The question was laid to rest in the commonwealth’s presentation of evidence during the April hearing that Hann was the “perpetrator of the murder/suicide” involving victim Tina Souders and himself.
The judge also referenced three factors regarding forfeiture that required consideration: the willfulness of the defendant’s breach of the bond; the cost, inconvenience and prejudice suffered by the government; and the existence of any explanation or mitigating factors.
“Weachter made a professional, business decision to bond Hann in this case – a business decision not without some measure of risk. Weachter acknowledged that he did not review the criminal complaint or the affidavit of probable cause filed by Trooper Garry Ford Jr., despite the charges listed on the bail bond ... . As a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper, Weachter knew the potential seriousness of this type of case,” said Krom.
“Weachter spoke to Hann at the jail and could have easily asked Hann questions about the commonwealth’s allegations, Hann’s relationship with Souders, and, most importantly, Hann’s intent and ability to comply with the conditions of the bail bond to determine if he wished to subject himself to the risk of serving as surety, he did not,” she added.
She noted the decision to require bail forfeiture is not an attempt to seek justice for the Souders family when justice cannot otherwise be obtained through the prosecution of her killer. “Nor is this court’s decision an attempt to hold Weachter accountable for Souders’ death. Both would be improper and most certainly error,” the judge concluded.
Defense attorney Clint Barkdoll stated last Thursday afternoon he had not as of yet received the order/opinion from the Fulton County clerk of courts. As a result of not having read the document, Barkdoll was only able to say, he would review the order and opinion and meet with Weachter to decide how to best proceed.
“At this point, we are weighing various options,” Barkdoll said.
On behalf of the commonwealth, District Attorney Kendall indicated to the “News” he believes Krom arrived at the”correct decision” after having considered the court’s local rules and the Rules of Criminal Procedure. “Standard bond conditions in every case in which bail is set, require the defendant to not intimidate or retaliate against any victim or witness and to avoid any new criminal activity,” said Kendall.
“Although Weachter is financially responsible as surety under the terms of the bond he posted, it is important to remember that Weachter did nothing illegal or even wrong. He is not being held responsible for the death of Tina Souders nor should he be. Blaming Weachter for Tina’s death would be like blaming your car insurance company for the tree that fell on your car. When you present a claim to an insurer, that does not make the loss their fault. It’s just their responsibility,” Kendall stated.