Pitt County Judge & D.A. Talk About Why Bonds Differ

You've probably seen it time and time again across Eastern Carolina where suspects charged with the same crime are given drastically different bonds. That's the case right now for three high profile murder suspects in Pitt County.

Phillip Lewis is out of jail after posting a $500,000 bond with some restrictions. Alton Modlin is also out of jail after posting a $14,000 bond. James Richardson remains locked up under a 5 million dollar bond. So why such a big difference in bond amounts for a similar charge?

Pitt County District Court Judge Charles Vincent says, "I think the main two things are number one, to ensure the public is safe or other persons are safe, two to ensure that the defendant will come to court." But that's just the beginning. Judge Vincent says he goes by a whole list of factors every Pitt County judge and other officials are required to use. Those include whether the suspect fled from the scene and police had to run him down, the length of time they've lived in an area, their contacts, whether they have lived in other countries, have a history of flight to avoid prosecution, their family ties, employment, financial resources, character, and mental condition.

Both Vincent and district attorney Clark Everett point out each case is different, another reason a similar charge doesn't mean the same bond. Everett says, "It's a call that judges make based on their experience, and their guidelines. It's like any other decision that people make, they do the best they can to weigh the risk and the fairness to the defendant."

Vincent and Everett would not comment on the three murder suspects cases we outlined because they did not want to jeopardize the upcoming trials. But they did answer hypothetical questions.

For example, if the victims are not targeted but are randomly chosen, how does that impact bond for the alleged shooter? Judge Vincent says, "When murder is alleged to have been indiscriminate and against people you don't know that would indicate a higher bond."

As you'll recall, Richardson is accused of gunning down two ECU students outside a Greenville nightclub. Officials say Richardson did not know the people he is accused of killing and they say he also fled to another state after the incident, but later turned himself in to authorities. Again, his bond is five million dollars.

The possibility of self-defense also factors in to a judges decision-making on bond. Judge Vincent says, "If self defense is an issue that would make it a different situation from someone that walks into a store and blows someone away."

Some believe self defense is a factor in the case of Alton Modlin, accused of killing his stepson with a shovel. In court, the victims mother talked of the victims violent past and alcohol history. The judge in the case then said he felt a lower bond was appropriate. It was ultimately set at $14,000.

That brings up another factor officials look at... any history of violence of the murder suspect and the deceased.

Police say defendant Phillip Lewis killed another former ECU student after a fight between two college age groups of people. Lewis's family lives in Pitt County. According to officials, the victim had two court dates pending, including one for misdemeanor simple assault. Lewis was given a $500,000 bond with limitations, like drug and travel restrictions.

In the end--officials say they strive to strike a balance with bond, without risking public safety.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by What It Looks Like Location: G-Vegas on Mar 7, 2011 at 06:41 PM
    Comment to Kate:You asked who would I rather be in an alley with,someone that knows me or someone that does not know me?Either one one is not good because who would want to be in an alley with someone that knows you but is still capable of KILLING you!So it is all about RACISM!!!!!!!Is that any better for someone that knows you to kill you in cold blood?Be real dumb question!!!!Judges make their own decisions in some cases no matter what they have that right.It is not about being fair.Judge that gave the boy, that parents he was very familiar with a low bond and a pat on the back for killing another student(after the clubs downtown let out)and he should not be allowed out on bond,with the intencity of the crime he commited.But since the judge knew him and his PARENTS that's why he got the LOW BOND!!!!Everybody ignores those little details,that's because as you know their only talked for a very little lenghth of time.DUH
  • by MONEY TALKS!! on Feb 9, 2011 at 02:22 PM
    Whether one gets a low/high bond, and/or how the trial will turn out is based on one thing only... MONEY!!!! PERIOD!!! Money talks and you know the rest!! That's why there is such a disparity in the outcomes of murder trials, etc. If you have the money, the outcome of your trial will be different than one that does not!!! Money changes the outcomes for politics, court, etc. Nice to have, heaven help you if you don't!!!!!
  • by unbelievable on Feb 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM
    wow so if you have a good job history and you have never run away you have a good chance of getting a pat on the hand and approval to kill.i don't care what color you are or if you have a job.i belive all should be punished the same because no matter what it is not right just to go out and kill someone.the other thing is they don't want to admit that the jails are to full.but you know we have rapist killers and whatevers in there for life and taken up space.........duh
  • by B Location: NC on Feb 9, 2011 at 06:11 AM
    What's the bond for the White dude that murdered his dad in cold blood and blamed it on a Black guy?
  • by Court Conviction on Feb 9, 2011 at 12:57 AM
    To Whatever:....so does that mean you believe that the O.J. Simpson trial was incorrect in judging OJ not guilty? More corruption, huh?
  • by Whatever Location: Pitt County on Feb 8, 2011 at 09:16 PM
    It is the court system. They and it is all corrupt. Go after the truth for one time, on any case. No you can't you have to go after a conviction to make yourself look good. What kind of justice is that?
  • by Demosthenes on Feb 8, 2011 at 07:49 PM
    People screamed "why?" over and over again. An answer comes, you either don't understand, don't read, or totally ignore the article and then spout off how it's just not so. Be honest, you really just wanted to fight about it and didn't care what the facts of the matter were. I understand.
  • by Watcher Is Right! on Feb 8, 2011 at 07:11 PM
    It IS a "black or white" thing. "...to ensure the public is safe or other persons are safe, to ensure that the defendant will come to court, whether the suspect fled from the scene and police had to run him down, the length of time they've lived in an area, their contacts, whether they have lived in other countries, have a history of flight to avoid prosecution, their family ties, employment, financial resources, character, and mental condition." ... Now, which one of these conditions don't favor blacks? I count 8 maybe 9 out of 12 that I'd say are more prone to be negatively sided on blacks. So, just in that alone, it would make sense that blacks would have seemingly high bonds. (comparatively speaking) I know you might say "That's racist", but I'm just offering my opinion. I'd guess that if the person is from Jamaica, they might get higher bond settings, or maybe a guy with outstanding warrants. How many white guys do you know that are from Jamaica?
  • by hahah Location: ENC on Feb 8, 2011 at 06:59 PM
    to Del: I do believe the "black guy" murdered not one but TWO people in a rage. Enough said. But I am sure it's because he didn't have a mamma growing up, or because he had ADD, or blah blah blah blah.
  • by Kate Location: Greenville on Feb 8, 2011 at 06:52 PM
    People don't seem to understand there are set guidelines to how much, or how little a bond can be set at based on what the actual charge is. Yes they are all charged with murder however there are different degrees of murder, different circumstances, different evidence, and thier history plays a large roll in setting bond. How long is the rap sheet, what were the charges, do they have a job, family in the area, history of flight, etc. So how about dropping the race card. The black guy shot people he didn't know in a crowded area. The other 2 killed people they knew. For those of you saying it's a race thing, who would you rather be in a dark alley with?
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