Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bail Bondsmen Acquitted

A Mobile trial of a bail bondsman and his employee charged with kidnapping ended in an acquittal late Tuesday afternoon for both defendants.

Former Mobile County sheriff's candidate Clint Ulmer, 43, and an assistant, 25-year-old Bobby Crook, went on trial Monday before Circuit Judge Rick Stout, accused of kidnapping a woman from the downtown McDonald's fast-food restaurant on Government Street in January 2006.

However, even before jurors began deliberating late Tuesday afternoon, Stout told them that since the trial began, he found no elements in the case justifying a charge of second-degree kidnapping.

Instead, Stout said, the jury would have to decide whether Ulmer and Crook committed a lesser offense -- unlawful imprisonment in the second degree.

After about an hour of deliberations, the jurors decided that the men were not guilty of even the lesser charge.

According to testimony, the chain of events leading to this week's court case began with the arrest of Janai Napier, who was charged with receiving stolen property in late 2005 and for whom Bandit Bonding agreed to stand bail.

When she missed a court date in January 2006, Ulmer and Crook went to her mother's job at the Government Street McDonald's, placed Gwendolyn Napier in handcuffs and later drove her around a city block before returning her to the McDonald's parking lot, according to testimony.

The prosecution argued that this act was an illegal attempt to bully and intimidate Napier into leading the men to her daughter. The defense argued it was a matter of mistaken identify, with Ulmer and Crook believing the mother was the daughter.

Stout said that his decision on the original kidnapping charge hinged on whether Napier was held in "secret" during her brief encounter with Ulmer and Crook.

Since several McDonald's employees and even some police officers were aware that the men had taken Napier away, it could not have been secret, Stout said.

Assistant District Attorney Ella Byrd argued in the end that while Napier was confined inside Ulmer's vehicle she was being unlawfully imprisoned.

During cross-examination by Ulmer's defense attorney, Buzz Jordan, Gwendolyn Napier acknowledged that until recent years she had had an illegal drug problem, had accumulated her own string of arrests over the years and had used perhaps as many as 15 aliases.

She had been clear of both drugs and criminal behavior for years, Byrd later pointed out.

Jordan and Crook's defense attorney, John Wayne Boone, questioned the mother's veracity and her motives for waiting months before filing kidnapping charges against their clients.

The attorneys also pointed out that since the incident at McDonald's, Napier had initiated a civil suit that as of July was seeking $1.5 million in damages against the bail bondsmen.


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1 comment:

igobailamy said...

If the mother would be charged with aiding and abetting, I am sure she would have easily gave up the whereabouts of her daughter. Why wasn't she charged? If the police had asked her and she lied to them she would have been and an obstruction charge would have been added.