State leader seeks to halt escape-from-justice loophole

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by DAVID SCHECHTER / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

wfaa.com

Posted on December 4, 2009 at 12:14 AM

DALLAS - A state leader is pleading for a change in law in response to News 8 reports about a loophole allowing illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes to get deported before ever going to trial.

 

It's a bail bondsman job to makes sure a defendant shows up for court. But, inside the Dallas County Jail stacks, stacks of one-page legal documents are being filed, allowing bondsmen off the hook.

If no one is held responsible, there's no incentive to track down deported immigrants charged with crimes as serious as murder and sexual assault.

"We have to change the law," said Rep. Larry Phillips, of Sherman.

The document, called a 17.16, is supposed to protect bondsmen's investments.

For example, if his defendant is re-arrested while out on bond and brought back to jail, a 17.16 relieves the bondsman of his financial responsibility.

But, following Wednesday News 8 report, Phillips said he is now concerned some bail companies are abusing the process and actually helping illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes to escape justice.

Teofilo Martinez, who faced 20 years in prison, is among those that may be an example of just that. On the same day Maverick Bail Bonds posted a $7,500 bond for Martinez, the company turned around and filed a 17.16. Because of that bond, Martinez was released by Dallas County to federal immigration authorities, who bused him back to Mexico and set him free.

Maverick no longer has any financial responsibility in the case. The company declined to comment.

"Going back and looking at how it's being applied, I don't think that was its original purpose," Phillips said.

Phillips said he now wants to add a clause to existing Texas law that would prohibit a bondsman from dropping financial responsibility if a client is an illegal immigrant slated for deportation.

"We don't have the opportunity for the person to face their criminal charges," Phillip said if things don't change.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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