While he sat in the jail, Maurice Clemmons was obsessed with two things – getting bailed out, then killing as many cops as possible, says the Seattle Times. With more than a decade behind bars in Arkansas and having worked for a bail-bond company himself, Clemmons knew how to manipulate the system. He cajoled friends, family, and bail agents to orchestrate his release – three times in seven months, making small down payments while offering shaky collateral. Despite the customary 10 percent down, Clemmons got out once on a $40,000 bond by making only a $1,700 payment. Then, facing a $190,000 bond for a rash of felonies, including rape and assault, he won freedom with $8,000. Six days later, he assassinated four police officers.
Now, state legislators, prosecutors, and even bail-bond owners are demanding changes to the largely unregulated bail-bond business. “There’s no truth in bail,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said. When defendants like Clemmons can bail out of jail with little upfront money, he said, “that forces us to guess what amount of bail will keep them in jail and keep them from escaping the system or committing further crimes. When we guess wrong, bad things can happen.” Competition among bail-bond companies is driving some to charge much less than the typical 10 percent of the bond, accept shaky collateral and credit-card payments, and allow suspects to pay their way to freedom through installment plans. Some in the bail industry believe it’s in dire need of standards. “You can find a surety company and basically do business out of the back seat of a car [with] a cellphone,” said Denny Behrend of Lacey OMalley Bail Bonds. “This is a business that requires regulation.”