School board, 33; Bostons, 3
Published 11:10 am Friday, November 21, 2008
Must repay thousands of dollars
By TED STRONG
At a Thursday hearing in Beaufort County Superior Court, Joe and Mazel Boston lost on 33 of 36 motions to make them repay bonds they had forfeited and then recouped.
The exact bond in each case was not available, but bonds in Superior Court cases are routinely in the thousands of dollars each. More than 80 cases of a similar nature from district court were decided in the board’s favor after an August hearing. The bonds in those cases totaled more than $70,000. The Bostons are currently appealing some of those decisions, and Joe Boston said earlier this week that he intends to appeal the rest.
Judge Cy Grant is still deciding whether to make the Bostons — who are under investigation by the N.C. Department of Justice and the N.C. Department of Insurance — pay the school board’s legal fees as a punishment, and he denied a request to suspend the Bostons’ bail-bonding licenses for a year.
The Bostons, who were supported by a crowd of about 30 people in the courtroom, have claimed that the Beaufort County Board of Education’s decision to pursue the matter was based on Joe Boston’s criticism of the school board’s minority hiring practices.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference held a rally on the subject for the Bostons Wednesday night at Mt. Hebron Church of Christ in Washington.
At one point during Thursday’s hearing, King asked Kim Edwards, another school board attorney, if she was part of a meeting where the need to find something to “get” Joe Boston was discussed.
After the trial, District Attorney Seth Edwards — who is Kim Edwards’ husband — said he found the claims that he and his wife had set out to persecute Joe Boston distasteful.
Malone also asked Kim Edwards to detail her research into other bail bondsmen in an effort to show she was evenhanded.
Malone contended that the Bostons sneaked motions past the board and the district attorney’s office asking for money that they didn’t deserve.
When someone is released on bond, a bail bondsman like the Bostons will pledge to pay a defendant’s bond, in exchange for a fee.
If the defendant doesn’t show up for court, the bail bondsman has to pay the money, which goes to the school system.
If the defendant is recaptured, or if other, specific circumstances —such as the dismissal of the charges — can be proven, the bail bondsman can file a motion to get the money back.
A computer automatically grants the motion, unless the school board’s attorney or the district attorney objects, in which case a judge hears the matter.
Malone claimed the Bostons never told the district attorney or the school board’s attorney that they had filed the motions — effectively guaranteeing their money back.
He also claimed they lied on the forms, claiming they had met the requirements to get their money back when they hadn’t, often when the defendants were still on the street.
Grant summarized the legal question. “You have two things here,” he said. “You don’t have proper service, and then, when you look behind the service, you don’t have proper grounds.”
Kim Edwards said she didn’t get any of the type of motion in question from the Bostons during 2007.
She also said the Bostons claimed to have served her personally with the motions on a number of weekend days, and that she had never received any sort of notice on the weekend.
King seemed to attack the process by which Kim Edwards accepted notice of motions, questioning her on who checked her box at the courthouse and who opened her mail at the Board of Education’s offices.
She said that she checked at least once a week, and that her husband’s staff checked it at least once a day. King made a point of asking Edwards if she paid her husband’s staff or was a part of the district attorney’s office. She said neither was the case.
Malone later called Seth Edwards’ administrative assistant, Ruth Spruill, to drive home the point that Edwards’ box was checked daily. King again asked if she was paid by Kim Edwards, and Spruill said no, that the mail was checked as “a courtesy.”
King conceded early in the hearing that no legal grounds for the Bostons to get some of the bonds back existed.
But King did manage to get the judge to let the Bostons keep their recouped bond money in three cases, by pointing out scribbled notes in files saying judges had recalled orders for arrest and showing that one case had been dealt with after being consolidated into another file.
Malone argued against giving the Bostons money for cases in which King claimed grounds for the Bostons to get their money back existed, but they had checked the wrong box on a form. Malone pointed out some cases where the Bostons had filed for the money back before the conditions for them to legally receive it even existed.
But Grant said he wanted to go over all the cases King was disputing carefully.
Malone asked the judge not to give the Bostons leeway on such cases, because he felt their pattern of non-notification was underhanded.
King said many of the cases were simply the result of “sloppy book-keeping.”