Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Robert Hunter Jacob Woods, an 18-year-old former student at Pelion High School, who made threats to shoot up the school over social media, appeared before a judge Wednesday for a bond hearing. That judge set Woods’ bond at $2,500. This a cash or surety bond which means that someone would have either had to pay the entire $2,500 in cash for Woods to get out of jail or they could pay a bondsman to post the bond. Most bondsmen charge between 5% and 10% of the total amount of the bond depending on each individual, their ties to the community, and other factors. As of Thursday morning, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s website showed Woods was still being held in the detention center.
Woods was charged with making threats to a school. A judge can only set the amount of bond for that crime on certain facts. By law, a judge cannot use a bond to punish an offender. Although some serious crimes have strong bond guidelines, a judge can’t set the bond higher because the judge thinks the crime that the offender is accused of is more heinous to the court or the public than another offense. In bond hearings where there are no mandatory guidelines, they simply have to look at whether the accused will return to court for their scheduled appearances and most importantly, are they a danger to themselves or others if they are out of jail. Although it would be easy to say that threatening to shoot up a school obviously is a danger to the community, without knowing more about the suspect and the evidence in the investigation, that simply isn’t possible.
During their investigation, deputies look for evidence. That evidence would all be included in a case file that a judge would review before setting bond. If the suspect had access to firearms, ammunition, explosives, or had bomb making material in his home, then a judge could very easily believe he or she was a real threat. If, however, deputies found no firearms that the accused had access to, of grandpa’s old deer rifle in the suspect’s home,that would be different. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement would normally remove firearms from the suspect’s residence. If the defendant had no means to obtain other firearms readily, that might be another thing entirely.
Likewise, if law enforcement found large amounts of cash or illegal drugs, passports, or any other evidence available to a defendant, that could make the judge feel the accused might and could flee to avoid prosecution. This might also play a part in their decision when setting bond.
Although judges do have some leeway in bond court, they cannot just leave someone in jail and throw away the key because they have been accused of a crime. The defendant first has the right to appear with an attorney in court and plead their guilt or innocence at trial. In short, judges and the courts have to follow the rules when setting bonds as set forth in the documents that were used to establish our country and grant us our rights as Americans. If you are ever accused of a crime, these would be your rights too.