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State v. Mitchell

Supreme Court of South Carolina

November 8, 2017

The State, Respondent,
v.
Deangelo Mitchell, Defendant, and AA Ace Bail by Frances and Palmetto Surety Corp., as Surety, Petitioners. Appellate Case No. 2016-000980

          Heard April 12, 2017

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         Appeal from Charleston County Stephanie P. McDonald, Circuit Court Judge

          Robert T. Williams, Sr. and Benjamin Allen Stitely, both of Williams, Stitely & Brink, PC, of Lexington, for Petitioners.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and V. Henry Gunter, Jr., both of Columbia, and Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson, of Charleston, for Respondent.

          JAMES, JUSTICE.

         This appeal arises from an order estreating a surety bond and remitting one-half of the bond forfeiture. The court of appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. State v. Mitchell, Op. No. 2016-UP-070 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Feb. 17, 2016). We affirm the court of appeals' holding that the bond estreatment was proper and that the amount of forfeiture remitted was not arbitrary or capricious. We hold that the circuit court may consider the willfulness of a bondsperson's actions, in addition to the willfulness of a defendant's actions, when determining whether, and to what extent, to remit a bond forfeiture.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Deangelo Mitchell was arrested for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and was released on a $25, 000 surety bond. Subsequently, Mitchell was arrested for trafficking in cocaine, distribution of cocaine, and involuntary manslaughter; bond was set at $400, 000. Mitchell's bonds were then consolidated for all his pending charges and the circuit court set a $150, 000 surety bond. Bond conditions included a standard good behavior condition, plus house arrest and electronic monitoring. AA Ace Bail by Frances and Palmetto Surety Corporation (collectively, Bond Company) executed the $150, 000 surety bond and Mitchell was released.

         Thereafter, the State moved to revoke Mitchell's bond on the basis that Mitchell blatantly disregarded the house arrest and electronic monitoring provisions of his bond and thus, violated the "good behavior" requirement of the bond contract.[1]Mitchell appeared at the revocation hearing and testified that he was never informed of the conditions of his bond and that he was never informed he was violating a condition of his bond.

         Mitchell's bondsperson, Frances Jenkins, testified at the revocation hearing th at she has b een a bo ndsper son f or almost twenty years. She testified she was aware electronic monitoring was a condition of Mitchell's bond. Jenkins admitted the monitoring company contacted her two to three times to inform her that Mitchell was violating the electronic monitoring conditions; she testified that she in turn contacted Mitchell and told him to "tighten up." Concerning her responsibilities as a bondsperson, Jenkins initially testified, "I write appearance bonds, not behavior bonds." Later during her testimony, she conceded that her responsibilities as a bondsperson include helping to enforce bond conditions other than the defendant's appearance in court.

         James Robinson, the owner of the monitoring company, testified at the revocation hearing that his office contacted Mitchell and Jenkins on several occasions regarding the electronic monitoring violations, and that after continuing violations, his office notified Jenkins she needed to arrest Mitchell because "it was very obvious" that he was staying out all night. Robinson testified "it got to where there was just no compliance" and that Mitchell committed daily house arrest and electronic monitoring violations. Robinson testified he advised Jenkins that it appeared Mitchell was "out there doing drug transactions." Robinson testified that Jenkins refused to pick Mitchell up and responded, "well, that's how he makes a living." Jenkins denied telling Robinson that she knew Mitchell made money dealing drugs.

         The circuit court found Mitchell's claims of ignorance as to the conditions of his bond were not credible and revoked the bond for repeated violations of the terms and conditions of the bond. Mitchell was placed in custody until he pled guilty and was sentenced to a term of incarceration.

         On August 8, 2012, the State filed a Notice of Forfeited Recognizance seeking estreatment of the bond posted by Bond Company. The circuit court held two hearings on the motion, and on July 9, 2014, the circuit ...


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