Monday, April 07, 2008

Bail Reduction Sparks Outcry

Dale E . Flow, charged in connection with a brutal parking lot beating that left a Hilton Head Island bartender severely injured, walked out of jail March 12 after his bail was reduced from $100,000 to $25,000.

The reduction meant that Flow had to pay only $2,500 -- the standard 10 percent required by bail bondsmen -- to be free pending his trial.

The victim's friends say the bond shouldn't have been lowered, but Flow's attorney said bail isn't meant to be punitive.

Flow, 32, of Rockingham, N.C., was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill,South Carolina's equivalent of an attempted murder charge, after the Feb. 22 incident outside the Lodge, a popular night-spot on the south end of Hilton Head.

Witnesses said victim Colin Spar was hit from behind and knocked unconscious while trying to break up a fight. They said he was then beaten with a heavy metal object, possibly a builder's level.

The beating sent Spar, 23, a 2002 graduate of Hilton Head Preparatory School, to the intensive care unit of Savannah's Memorial Health University Medical Center, where he remained for weeks with injuries that required several surgeries. Spar was released from the hospital more than two weeks ago, but still undergoes out-patient rehabilitation to regain the use of his right arm.

When setting bond, judges take several factors into consideration, such as the severity of the crime as well as the defendant's past criminal record and potential flight risk.

Flow's attorney, James Brown, Jr., said his client is not a flight risk because he is staying with his mother in greater Charleston, his hometown.

According to Brown's motion to reduce the bond, which was delivered to the Beaufort County Clerk of Court on March 4, Flow's only other known criminal charge was for public disorderly conduct. A spokesman for the Richmond County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina said Flow also had a speeding infraction.

Judge James Williams granted the reduction request.He did not return several calls seeking comment.

Pre-trial bonds are required by law to be reasonable. Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said if a defendant is not a flight risk and does not present a danger to the community, the deciding judge may be "stuck between a rock and a hard spot."

However, "prosecution, in most cases, does chime in on what bond was set," Tanner said.

Prosecutor Alex Robinson could not be reached for comment and Duffie Stone, 14th Circuit Solicitor, declined to comment, his spokeswoman said.

Friends of the Spar family like Debbie DeAbate, who has known the injured man for about 10 years, are outraged by the bond reduction.

"$2,500 is almost like an insult." she said. "Colin has missed work and is trying hard to have a normal life again. That's worth more than $2,500."

The Spar family, meanwhile, has been focusing on Colin's recovery.

"My first priority is Colin getting better. Everything else is secondary for now," said Daniel Spar, Colin's father. "We'll let the system do its job."

Flow was indicted by a grand jury March 20. The next term of General Sessions court, where the case will be heard, starts Monday.

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