INDIANAPOLIS — The Bail Project paid to release at least three people who allegedly went on to commit heinous crimes, including murder and stabbings of officers, while awaiting trial for prior offenses. At the request of Marion Superior Court judges, the Bail Project is investigating how many of their clients re-offended while out on release.
“There’s no uniform system in Indiana that allows anybody to look at that data and that information,” David Gaspar, National Operations Director, said. “We are doing that research on our own, that way we can have a better understanding so that we can continue, as I stated earlier, learning, growing, adapting, and improving. But today, I actually just don’t have a number.”
Gaspar confirmed to FOX59 Investigates the Bail Project does not read the probable cause affidavits connected to the clients they pay cash bail for. This sworn document details police allegations against a person.
“So, there are certain circumstances where we would want to know more information about the client, but usually we’ll get the indicators from looking at the MyCase, or if the family or friend members offer us information that is available,” Gaspar explained.
However, the probable cause affidavits are publicly available. Unless a judge seals it, they are accessible to everyone. In Marion County, where Gaspar lives and works, the probable cause affidavits can be searched on Odyssey, a statewide case management system, and either read online for free or printed out at the clerk’s office for a small fee.
“The process that we use is one that allows us to act very swiftly,” Gaspar said. “When you have individuals with each passing day that they’re in custody, they’re at risk of losing their job, they’re at risk of losing their housing, their children, everything that they have that they look forward to coming home to and that could actually provide some stability in order for them to be able to move forward is in jeopardy. So, for us to have to make that public request in order for us to have to wait for that, there’s more and more harm being inflicted upon an individual not to mention the harms and the trauma that comes along with just being incarcerated in general.”
Indy Bail Project interview, parts 1-3: who gets bailed out, victim safety & reoffenders
However, a visit to the clerk’s office can produce the probable cause affidavit within minutes.
The Bail Project paid Marcus Garvin‘s bail in January 2021 after he was accused of stabbing a random person at a gas station. Judge Shatrese Flowers lowered his bond in this case from $30,000 surety to $1,500 cash, which made Garvin eligible for the Bail Project’s help.
The probable cause details allegations against Garvin. The victim stated Garvin came to the bathroom door and knocked, and told him he had been in the bathroom too long. It says a short time later the victim, “stated Marcus Garvin began swinging at him, but did not realize he had a knife or that Marcus Garvin had stabbed him.”
We asked Gaspar why Garvin was a person the Bail Project would pay bail for.
“Once again, we didn’t actually have that affidavit available to us at the time that we were doing our work,” Gaspar said. “I can’t say that that wouldn’t have been impactful and that we wouldn’t have taken that into consideration and that it wouldn’t have changed the decision that we have made. But, not having that information, we moved forward with what we did have available. We did move forward knowing that we did have information available to us. We knew that we reached out to his contacts, we knew that we actually asked them what is actually going on, where do you believe that we actually have the opportunity to help? As tragic as that particular event was, it still is a very small percentage of the reflection of the work that we do. We’re talking about almost bailing out a thousand people. There’s an example of how within that broader span of work something tragic can happen. We can’t predict human behavior, we can’t predict when an individual is going to have a mental breakdown or if they’re going to not have the assistance that they need that is going to meet their exact needs that they have. We make our best assessments. We do our work and we do it consistently. This just happens to be an example of a tragic event.”
Bail Project interview, parts 3-6: how released inmates in Indy are tracked and which crimes are eligible
Another tragic event happened on October 1, when Nikki Sterling’s son, Dylan McGinnis, was shot and killed in Indianapolis. The man who is charged with his death was bailed out by both The Bail Project and a bail bonds agent; Travis Lang had four pending cases at the time of the murder.
“They’re not doing the research on the probable cause, so that tells me they’re not looking into other areas,” Sterling said outside of the Indiana House Chamber. She testified before lawmakers on Tuesday, January 25 in favor of regulations on charitable bail organizations.
“I was more dismayed to learn that the Bail Project operates without regulation meaning they can bail out whomever they want,” Sterling stated to the House, remembering the day she found out about the organization.
Sterling’s plea is the Bail Project takes into account the details of each case.
“They need to do more work on their end,” Sterling said.
The Bail Project points to its own data showing 95% of their clients made their court dates. However, FOX59 Investigates cannot confirm that information because the organization said, “The Bail Project abides by a strict Confidentiality Policy regarding information related to our prospective clients, current clients, and former clients. The list of the names of clients that The Bail Project provided bail for falls squarely under the penumbra of that Confidentiality Policy.”