published Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Chattanooga: Bail bonding complaints heard

Hamilton County Criminal Court judges are hearing testimony on complaints from bail bondsmen against other bonding companies. The complaints could lead to a formal investigation.

Several of the companies have hired legal counsel for today’s hearings.

Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox is attending the hearings as well as Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and members of his administration. All three criminal court judges — Judges Barry Steelman, Rebecca Stern and Don Poole — are at the meeting as well.

Some of the complaints assert jail staff allow bail bondsmen to come into the jail to make bonds inside restricted areas and that people within the jail routinely leak information to certain bonding companies to give them an advantage.

John Horton, 21, told the court that when he was in custody at the jail, he watched a jailer take a bondsman with Key Bonding Co. into the cell area to post his friend’s bond.

“We saw someone walking through with an officer,” he said.

His bond was posted a few hours later by a different bond company.

Yolanda Mitchell, who served as a magistrate from November 2007 to 2011 and is now running for a General Sessions Court seat, answered questions about inappropriate communication with Carlos Jones, owner of Carlos Bonding Co.

She denied disclosing information to bonding companies.

“You pick whichever one looks good to you,” she said.

Read more in tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

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