Thursday, July 01, 2010

Reed Bates update

Reed Bates sent an email describing and clarifying the events that lead up to his 18 days in the Ellis County jail in Waxahachie. As noted by Serge in comments to a previous Examiner post, Bates' was held on a $5000 bail for failure to appear at the Ellis County Court on May 7th. The bail was not for charges on his bicycling offenses.

At the end of April, Bates moved from Ennis, Texas, to Dallas where he found work and a new place to live. He admits to screwing up by not informing the Ellis County Court of his address change.

May 7th was his trial date, and the district attorney offered a plea deal prior to that. Bates did not receive any notice of that, of course, but neither did his attorney, Mr. Jones. However, according to Bates, Jones was not listed as his attorney on this particular charge, so Bates takes full responsibility for missing the May 7th hearing.

Ellis County issued a warrant for his arrest on May 7th, and he was subsequently taken into custody in Rockwall on June 8th. He was held in the Rockwall County jail on a $5,000 bond. He couldn't raise the bail money.

On June 21st, he was transferred to the Ellis County jail. Two days later, his second attorney, Mrs. Summers, attended a hearing to sort out the various charges against him. There were several issues. First, who would represent Bates? Next, what were the charges against him, an appeal to the Ennis City convictions, or the Ellis County reckless driving charge? Finally, some consideration was given to reducing the bail.

Mrs. Summers told him of the plea bargain offer from the Ellis County district attorney. If Bates would plead guilty and pay a fine of $200 and court costs, he would be free to go. Bates refused, saying that he would not plead guilty when he hadn't committed an offense. Summers said that Bates would probably have to remain in jail until the trial.

On Friday, June 25th, Mr. Jones arrived to represent Bates. Mrs. Summers deferred to Bates' selection of Jones as his sole attorney. The judge wanted to know how much time Jones would need to present his case, and further, asked if the charge and the appeal could be presented the same day. Jones said he'd need two hours, and the judge set a trial date of July 29th to hear the reckless driving charge, a procedural question about the appeal, and (possibly) an impeding traffic charge.

The district attorney offered a new plea deal: time served plus court costs and three months probation. Bates declined.

On Saturday, June 26th, bail was reduced to $300 and with a friend's help, Bates was released.

Reed Bates insists that he did nothing illegal and therefore he will not plead guilty. How many of us could do the same? It would be easier to simply accept the deal, plead guilty and pay the fines, and then put the matter behind us. At the very heart of all this is Bates' simple assertion of his rights as a bicyclist. He was under no legal obligation to ride on the shoulder of the road. No law requires it of any cyclist in Texas, yet when the authorities couldn't charge him with breaking a non-existent law, they brought other far more specious charges.

The League of American Bicyclists and the Texas Bicycle Coalition remain silent on this issue. The League - which claims it exists to protect cyclist's rights - apparently doesn't believe the rights of this cyclist are worth protecting.

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Blogger Steve A said...

Up until the last sentence, I wouldn't argue, and I certainly find the League's silence on this and other cases disturbing, but I think the last sentence goes beyond the actual League position. Many other organizations that ought to be interested, say, for example, the ACLU, have also been silent. The Bike League is far from alone in having management lose focus on what the prime directive should be. Unlike those other groups, the Bike League is the only national cyclist organization so we better figure out how to restore that focus.

6:36 PM  

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