HOLLIDAYSBURG - A Reading surety company will have to pay $42,900 of the $55,000 bond it posted for the release of an Altoona man who then allegedly violated his bail conditions by being arrested late last year for another violent crime, according to a ruling last week by Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle.
Doyle ruled that Ace Bail Bonds "is a professional surety who understood the risks of its decision to post bail for the defendant (Toryan White, 24, of Altoona).
"The defendant's violation of bond was a willful new criminal activity," Doyle stated.
Doyle's decision was based on a state Supreme Court decision last year in which Rickey Lynn Hann, 52, of McConnellsburg was set free on bail even after several protection-from-abuse violations. He proceeded to murder his estranged girlfriend, Tina Souders, 39, then killed himself.
The state's highest court overturned a ruling by the Superior Court that denied forfeiture of Hann's $100,000 bail to the county and ordered a rehearing at the county court level. The county court recently claimed the forfeited bail.
In the Blair County case, Ace Bail Bonds LLC of Reading posted bail of $15,000 for White after he was charged with simple assault, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and harassment for a domestic incident on Aug. 23, 2013.
He was then arrested for possession with intent to deliver heroin on Sept. 22, 2013. Ace posted another $40,000 to free White pending trial.
In October, he was charged with flight to avoid apprehension and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bail was unsecured for that alleged incident.
The final straw came on Dec. 20, 2013, when White, allegedly fleeing a routine traffic stop, drove his car into a stone wall at the Women's Club of Altoona, then fled on foot, leaving behind a pregnant woman and a 3-year-old child.
White's Blair County attorney, Mark Zearfaus, agreed that White violated his bond conditions, but Zearfaus and Ace attorney, John Bucuolo of Reading, opposed the forfeiture of the bail.
They argued the primary reason for bail was to assure appearance at a hearing.
Blair County Assistant District Attorneys Pete Weeks and Derek Elensky said the Hann case changed all that, now allowing forfeiture of bail for extreme violations of bail conditions.
Doyle reviewed nine factors a judge is to consider in forfeiting bail when conditions are violated, including the deterrence value of forfeiture, the seriousness of the case, whether the breach was willful and whether forfeiture "will vindicate the injury to public interest suffered as a result of the breach."
She ruled White's violation was the result of a willful act, and fleeing police after endangering two other people "represented a serious breach of bond conditions."
She found two factors - that Ace was supervising White's bail and that White's actions did not cost the government money - to weigh in Ace's favor, thus lessening the amount of the forfeiture.
The judge stated that when a willful breach of bail conditions endangers other people and damages property, "the court finds that a relatively high percentage of the total bail is appropriate as a forfeited amount."
"The court does not believe that bail bond companies will be put out of business by the Hann decision, but they may have to modify their business practices," she concluded.
Bucuolo said the company has not yet received Doyle's opinion but said it "probably" will appeal.
In the end, the $42,500 cost could eventually land in White's lap.
Bucuolo said if Ace is required to pay Blair County, the company will call upon its insurance company for help, and the insurance company could then go after White for the money.