SPRING, Texas (KTRK) -- In a rare move, the state's highest criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for a Houston man and upped his bond by 200 times more than the original amount, signaling a legal win for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
ABC13 has been following Timothy Singleton's case, which has been at the center of the controversy over low bonds in the time of COVID-19.
Last month, prosecutor Karen Barney and Magistrate Jennifer Gaut had a heated exchange, captured on court video, over bond for Singleton. The 31-year-old, with violent convictions, was accused of pulling a gun on his aunt's neighbor. Gaut set bond at $500 when the State asked for a $50,000 bond. She said the reason for the low bond was COVID-19 concerns inside the jail.
Singleton paid $50 and got out of jail. Two weeks later, he was accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend and her grandmother. It was exactly the kind of violence Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office feared. They appealed the bond to the Court of Criminal Appeals and on Friday, the judges unanimously upped it to $100,000 and issued a warrant for Singleton's arrest.
"In my career I have not seen the court do this," said Ogg. "I think it's important to understand we've taken a balanced approach. We don't want the epidemic to attack those in jail but I have a duty to protect the public safety of ordinary law-abiding people and habitual offenders like Timothy Singleton should be in jail."
Trial attorney, Steve Shellist, who is not involved in the case, agrees the court's move is unusual. He has never seen the judges raise bond. Usually, they lower it, he says.
"When you've got violent offenders, and they're (judges are) weighing out the protection of the community versus COVID-19 within the jails, you've got to satisfy the protection of the community first. That's how I read it, and I think these judges are going to have to respect what the Court of Criminal Appeals is telling them," Shellist said.
Gaut declined to comment. The State District Judge, Chris Morton, who upheld the low bond, never responded. They could appeal.
Ogg says she is prepared to file more appeals, if needed.
"I think it's a statement that it's important that we all stay within our lanes, follow the law," Ogg said.
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New bond and warrant set for man accused of beating his ex and her grandma