Judge forfeits $30,000 bond after group admits not vetting suspect it bailed out

Judge McKay Chauvin described the group’s effort as noble but executed in a “reckless” manner in bailing out Andre Clayton, accused in a double shooting.
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 7:35 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A local group that’s bailed out dozens of people accused of violent offenses has lost $30,000 for one man’s bond after he broke the terms of his release, according to court records.

This came less than a week after an exclusive WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation showed the Louisville Community Bail Fund has posted $1.2 million in bonds. Some of those bailed out included suspects accused of murder, rape, domestic violence, robbery, and other violent crimes.

During a bond forfeiture hearing Friday, Judge McKay Chauvin described the group’s effort as noble but executed in a “reckless” manner in bailing out Andre Clayton, accused in a double shooting.

A series of questions posed to LCBF during the hearing proved there was little to no vetting by the group as to who it was posting bond for, the judge said.

“Posting somebody’s bond without knowing anything about them, without knowing them and without knowing where they’re going to live or who they’re going to live with, or having any insight into how they may conduct themselves while on bond is dangerous," Chauvin said during the hearing.

Clayton was bailed out by LCBF in July. It paid his $30,000 bond, and Clayton was placed on home incarceration. During that time, according to court documents, Clayton posted pictures on social media of drugs and cash while posing next to his friend who was holding a gun.

“Mr. Clayton’s bond was set appreciably high because it should have been out of concern that if it wasn’t, something like this would happen,” Chauvin said.

During the hearing, Mitzi Wilson, a representative from LCBF, was called by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office as a witness concerning the bond.

Wilson explained that Clayton’s mother, whom she knew from church, approached her about bailing her son out of jail. Wilson admitted that she hadn’t had contact with Clayton himself since he was a teenager.

“Did you talk to Mr. Clayton prior to posting his bond?” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Emily Lantz asked.

“No, ma’am, I had talked to his mother,” Wilson replied.

“Did you speak to Mr. Clayton’s attorney prior to posting his bond?” Lantz asked.

“No, ma’am,” Wilson responded.

“Are you aware of anyone on the team that you referenced going to Mr. Clayton’s house after he was placed on HIP?” Lantz asked

“Not that I know of,” Wilson said.

Corrections officers went to Clayton’s house, where they said they found bottles of Oxycodone, Xanax, marijuana, scales, and a “large” amount of cash, according to the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections incident report.

Something else Lantz said LCBF didn’t check was Clayton’s criminal history, something it took Troubleshooters just minutes to find out. Clayton had a previous robbery conviction in 2015 and was out on probation when he was arrested again in relation to a shooting. According to police reports, Clayton shot two people, both of whom survived, and was charged with two counts of assault and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

That’s when LCBF paid his $30,000 bond, and Clayton was released on home incarceration before being charged again for drug-related felonies.

Chauvin told Wilson she may have had the best of intentions, and that everyone has the right to post bond, but they should do so responsibly.

“It’s a statement of fact that you should be very careful in posting bonds for people if you don’t know them," Chauvin said. "It’s a crazy undertaking. It’s dangerous to the community.”

Wilson’s attorney argued that Wilson should not be held responsible for Clayton’s actions and that she can’t control what he does.

The judge said everyone has the right to post bond, but explained that after announcing he was forfeiting that $30,000, that if it’s not the defendant’s money or that of someone they know, they may not even care.

“This is not the situation where a worried mother posted money to get her son out of jail,” Chauvin said. “The threat of taking that money must be credible. It must be real, or the whole system collapses.”

According to records obtained by WAVE 3 News, Wilson has posted 21 bonds while representing LCBF, totaling $369,500. Wilson also posted the bond for Austen Bush, a man accused of raping and beating a woman so severely that she spent days in a hospital with a lacerated liver. Bush, who was featured in the first Troubleshooter investigation, was previously convicted for child pornography and for violating the terms of his bonds. He was re-arrested after being bailed out by LCBF after allegedly continuing to threaten the victim.

Wilson is one of four main members of LCBF who have served as the “surety,” or guarantor, for the posted bonds.

The founder of LCBF, Chanelle Helm, has posted $372,100 in bonds. Helm is also the founder of Black Lives Matter Louisville, the same organization with whom Wilson testified she volunteers. Both LCBF and Black Lives Matter Louisville are registered as corporations with the Kentucky Secretary of State, linked under Helm’s name.

The $30,000 will now go to the state. LCBF will have the right to appeal.

This was the first of other forfeiture hearings scheduled for November alone. Another hearing is scheduled for mid-November, related to domestic violence, where police say the suspect was also bonded out by LCBF and continued to threaten his alleged victim.

WAVE 3 News spoke to LCBF’s attorney and asked for an interview or a statement, but did not hear back.

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