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Thursday, April 1, 2010

St. Louis Judges Discuss Bail Bond Misconduct Today; Investigation of Mary Catherine Moran and Bob Block Bail Bonds Continues

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 11:25 AM

click to enlarge The city's bail bond system is under review - IMAGE VIA
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  • The city's bail bond system is under review
Four judges from St. Louis' 22nd Judicial Circuit Court will meet at noon today to discuss alleged wrongdoing by Mary Catherine Moran, a former court official, and the city's largest bail bond agency.

Presiding judge David Dowd appointed a panel of judges -- Julian Bush, Steve Ohmer, Michael Stelzer and Paula Bryant -- to review the court's policies and procedures after the Post-Dispatch reported that bail bonds had been altered without their permission on multiple occasions by Moran in a way that helped Bob Block Bail Bonds reap thousands in extra profits.

Moran resigned from her post as pretrial release commissioner in February and Block was temporarily barred from doing business in the city.

Travis Ford, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Insurance, said that the agency is investigating the suspicious activity from Moran's office and cooperating with the judges' inquiry.

"I don't think that [our investigation] is final," Ford said  "But the result of the investigation, if there is one, is confidential. We're sort of like the FBI we can't confirm or deny anything."
Moran, 59, had been with the circuit court for more than 30 years and earned a salary of more than $81,000.

She held the title of pretrial release commissioner since 1999. The position, which advises judges on the amount of bail that should be set for criminal defendents, was the only one of its kind in Missouri. In every other circuit court judges decide bail for themselves.

Matt Murphy, a spokesman for the court administrator's office, confirmed that Moran was allowed to resign with full pension and benefits despite the alleged impropriety.

"Mary Catherine Moran did not receive any kind of severance package," Murphy wrote in an e-mail. "Her retirement benefits are the same that any court employee with 34 years of employment would receive."

Legislation to reform the state's bail bond laws is working its way through the state's House of Representatives. If approved, the bill (HB 2156) would enact a variety of reforms including prohibiting convicted felons from becoming bondsmen and requiring that bail bond agents provide defendants with a receipt for every transaction.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chris Molendorp, a Republican from the Kansas City area. Molendorp says there's "a glaring need" for tighter regulation of the bail bond industry.

"This doesn't just affect bail bondsmen," he said. "It affects criminal defendents and their due process, court clerks, the judiciary, the Department of Insurance, surety companies, law enforcement. There are some wide-ranging implications here."

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