By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Jake Rossen
By Lindsay Toler
By Kelsey McClure
By Lindsay Toler
"Michael Jeffrey was then put in a chair, duct-taped to a chair and handcuffed, and basically tortured by Virgil Jackson," Heitlzer said. "He was beat in the head with a phone book and by hand by Virgil Jackson...He was hit twice in the side under his armpit with a stun gun."
Neither Jordan nor the Jeffreys ever registered official complaints against Jackson with the Department of Insurance.
When Bob Behnen ran for a Senate seat in 2006, his opponent, Wes Shoemyer, aired attack ads that criticized him for his involvement in passing the law that included the Lee Clause. Shoemyer won the election even though he too had voted in favor of the bill as a member of the House.
"Push comes to shove, Wes voted for the bill," says Kathy Armstrong, a member of Shoemyer's legislative staff. "But Wes went after him on it, and that's why he's filed bills to do away with it, because it's not right. Really, truly, the last place you want to have a felon working is in the bail bond industry."
In December 2007, Shoemyer introduced a bill that would have repealed the Lee Clause. After it was moved to committee, however, he amended the language of the law to retain the fifteen-year provision.
"The [bail bond] association came and talked to the senator and they had some changes that they wanted to do, and so Wes said, 'OK, if the association wants them,'" Armstrong explains. "He presented a senate committee substitute that kept the fifteen-year provision, but then he kind of sort of changed his mind and wants to go back to the basic bill."
Campaign finance reports from the Missouri Ethics Commission show that leading up to the 2006 election, Shoemyer received $1,400 in contributions from Allison and Allison's wife, Deborah. Allison says he and Shoemyer are "friends."
"Jack Allison is a constituent and they like Wes, and he happens to be a bail bondsman," says Armstrong. "And even in spite of the campaign contributions he received from the Allison family, he still moved forward with a bill that would've not allowed Virgil Jackson to have a license."
"It's going to stay the same," says Allison, who currently holds the title of legislative coordinator with the MPBBA.
That stance has created a rift between bondsmen who support the association and those who oppose felons in the industry.
"They pretty much only represent themselves at this point," says Angela Park, a bail bond industry blogger. "I can see why other people might be hesitant to join. It kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth that Jackson was in the leadership and that he paid a bunch of lobbyists and state reps off and tried to murder his competitor."
That, however, hasn't stopped the MPBBA from continuing to lobby the state legislature with new proposals. In February, Sen. Maida Coleman, a St. Louis Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 1247 that would take oversight of the bail industry away from the Department of Insurance and place it in the hands of a "professional bail bond board."
The board would become responsible for all licensing, registration, discipline and rule-making for the state's bondsmen and bounty hunters. Though it does contain a provision requiring bondsmen to notify the proposed board within ten days of pleading guilty to a felony, it nonetheless retains the language of the Lee Clause.
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, Coleman in 2006 received $800 in contributions from Allison, Carroll and the MPBBA. Last month, Representative Will Kraus of Kirksville sponsored nearly identical legislation. Neither Coleman's nor Kraus' offices returned calls seeking comment.
On her Web site, Park decries the proposals as a "bail bond power grab" by the MPBBA and writes that, "The association would like to pass legislation that will feed revenues to the association and require its continued existence."
Allison counters by saying that he and the other members of their organization are simply attempting to do what they feel is right. According to Allison, that means giving felons a chance to become bondsmen.
"As long as it wasn't a murder or something like that you shouldn't have to keep paying for your crime for longer than fifteen years," Allison says.
Ironically, one of biggest proponents of preserving the Lee Clause is none other than Jerry Cox. In July 2004 Cox's son Jim pleaded guilty and served a year in jail following a conviction of felony conspiracy. As a Florissant police officer, he twice planted drugs and other evidence on a woman who was going through a divorce with one of his associates. The hope was that the ensuing conviction would sway the judge to award custody of the couple's kids to Jim's acquaintance. He was paid $2,600 for the deed.
Jim Cox is currently part-owner and director of operations at Cox Bail Bonds. Jerry Cox, who recently survived a bout with cancer, says he eventually wants his son to become a licensed bondsman and take over the business — something, of course, that would be impossible if the Lee Clause were repealed.
"Eventually the business is his," the elder Cox says. "In hindsight, now that [the Lee Clause] is there, I say leave it alone. Because if somebody has been clean and has been an upright person for fifteen years — truly has — why keep kicking 'em?"