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Court releases reports in support of suspending The Bail Project

The group uses revolving funds to bail out Hoosiers facing criminal charges.

INDIANAPOLIS — This week, the Marion County Superior Court released confidential reports after deciding to suspend its support of The Bail Project. The court said it suspended its support in part because the nonprofit failed to submit timely quarterly reports as requested.

The court released the reports it did receive to 13 Investigates. We reviewed one quarterly report for 2021 and three from 2019. The court said it did not receive a report in 2020. Via email, a spokesperson said The Bail Project missed a few reports due to staff transitions and adapting operating procedures due to COVID.

The group uses revolving funds to bail out Hoosiers facing criminal charges. The suspension means the charity bail organization cannot directly retrieve funds from the clerk’s office when a client’s case is over.

In the latest report, the group reported clients made 95% of their court cases. Cash bail serves as an incentive for a suspect to return to court.

It also showed that 941 clients involved in 1,129 case were assisted through the end of September. The group paid $2,130 on average.

Most clients faced misdemeanors and low-level felonies, meaning they could face anything from a criminal mischief to an aggravated DUI charge. Those made up 77% of clients in 2019. In 2021, the exact percentage wasn’t disclosed, but it dropped to above 60%.

RELATED: State lawmakers take aim at violent crime in Indianapolis

The group also helped Hoosiers facing more serious crimes, even Level 1 felonies. The fourth quarter report from 2019 showed about one percent were Level 1 felonies. At that time, the group reported posting bail for 380 clients involved with 452 cases.

The quarterly reports do not name people or give case specifics. However, 13News reported that Deonta Williams is a client. He's accused of stabbing two IMPD officers early on Dec. 1, 2021. The Bail Project helped him after he faced a January burglary charge.

It also paid $1,500 to get Marcus Garvin out of jail. He was facing battery charges. While out, he ended up killing his girlfriend.

Those cases led the police union to call out the group.

This week, lawmakers filed a suite of bills to either regulate or stop The Bail Project outright.

“So, any nonprofit that takes public tax dollars will not be able to post the bond for somebody to get out of jail,” said State Sen. Aaron Freeman who represents Indianapolis.

RELATED: Sen. Braun supports push to reform bail laws

The Bail Project sent 13News a statement saying, "Judges set cash bail and once they do, it should not matter who posts the bail, whether it is a family member, a bail bonds company, or a charity like ours. The fact that our not-for-profit is being singled out for requirements is concerning. We stand by the value of our services in helping people who are too poor to afford bail and we look forward to discussing our program directly with the court to address the topics raised in this letter. In the meantime, we will continue providing bail assistance as we have for nearly 1,000 low-income Hoosiers to date, particularly with the holidays around the corner when so many families are separated because they cannot afford bail for a loved one."

The court will reassess the issue during a Jan. 10 meeting. It is not open to the public, however 13News will follow up to see if the suspension remains in place.

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