The Bail Project responds after bailing out man accused in death of Louisville teen
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A tragic, drug-infused crash killed Madelynn Troutt, a 17-year-old Butler High School student. In the days since her death, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters learned the judge who gave Michael DeWitt a $5,000 bond on a list of other offenses two weeks before, also thought the bond amount was too low.
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“Looks like he’s picking up more charges,” Jefferson County District Court Judge Lisa Langford said during DeWitt’s arraignment on Feb. 17. “But they are elevating.”
“The bond really, in my opinion,” she continued, speaking to DeWitt’s defense attorney, “is low.”
However, a prosecutor with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office agreed to the $5,000 bond amount, calling it “appropriate.”
The bond allowed for a New York based non-profit, The Bail Project, to step in and pay for it.
The organization was part of a previous Troubleshooter investigation into a similar, but separate, bond-paying group operating in Louisville called the Louisville Community Bail Fund. The latter group has posted millions of dollars to bail out violent offenders for charges including rape, domestic violence, and murder.
The Bail Project has since distanced itself from that group, with the regional directors telling WAVE 3 News they don’t bail anyone out blindly.
The Bail Project opened a Louisville chapter in 2018 under the leadership of Shameka Parrish-Wright, who is currently running for Louisville mayor. When asked for comment this week, Parrish-Wright referred WAVE 3 News to the non-profit’s corporate office.
However, the regional director of The Bail Project, Matthew McFarland, agreed to an interview Wednesday because he said he believes the community and Troutt’s family deserve answers. He also took the time to publicly apologize to Troutt’s family.
“My most sincere condolences to Mrs. Troutt,” McFarland said Wednesday, stating there was nothing he could say to make the pain of losing a child less severe.
McFarland explained The Bail Project’s procedures, which begins with a referral to look at a case. Those referrals, he explained, can come from a suspect’s family member, a jail employee, a defense attorney or from a list naming those currently in custody.
McFarland said after the crash, he reviewed the case and listened to DeWitt’s interview with one of their representatives. He believed their organization followed their own rules and procedures while determining to post DeWitt’s bail.
They determined, he said, that the crimes DeWitt has previously been accused of were all related to drugs.
However, WAVE 3 News learned DeWitt had also been arrested three times in a span of eight months on charges that included allegedly stealing a car, stealing guns, theft and assaulting a police officer. On top of that, DeWitt also had been arrested more than 10 times in the state of Ohio. Those arrests were also related to driving drunk, burglaries, theft, stolen guns, a stolen vehicle, and violations of parole.
The Ohio charges were not presented during the hearing on Feb. 17 in Jefferson County.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” McFarland said. “If we ever would have seen anything even close to something happening where someone was injured or hurt, we would not proceed with the bail out.”
The word “danger” was used to describe DeWitt in that court hearing two weeks before the crash, something McFarland admitted they never heard.
“But some would argue that it was there,” Troubleshooter Natalia Martinez responded, “that the warning signs were there.”
“We would not have been present at that arraignment for us to hear that exact thing,” he said.
McFarland said The Bail Project referred DeWitt to a treatment center but that the decision to go to treatment is still up to the person. DeWitt, he confirmed, never showed up.
McFarland said that this case is a tragic, rare “exception” compared to other 3,000 individuals in Kentucky alone they’ve bailed out.
Still, he said, The Bail Project feels “horrible,” and they are sorry for what happened to Troutt.
McFarland also confirmed they are reviewing the case again to determine if any changes to their procedures will be made.
WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters reached out to Judge Langford again Wednesday. She did not return the calls.
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