First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe filed a notice in Orangeburg County Court on Friday seeking the forfeiture of a $100,000 bond paid in August 2019 to secure the release of Bowen Turner who had just been charged with sexually assaulting a girl.
Pascoe is also asking the court to hold Illery Bail Bonding in contempt for not reporting Turner for “numerous and flagrant“ violations of his bond conditions.
Specifically, Turner is accused of traveling outside the bounds of his court-ordered “house arrest” more than 50 times between November 2021 and February of this year.
This filing was first reported by Martha Rose Brown at The Times and Democrat newspaper.
In August 2019, Turner was already awaiting trial on a January 2019 charge of sexually assaulting another girl in Bamberg County in October of the previous year. At that time, he already stood accused of sexually assaulting yet another girl in Calhoun County six months earlier.
Three accusations. Three girls. Three different counties.
It is not yet known how many more bond violations might have occurred prior to November, but it would not come as a surprise to find out that Pascoe will seek to expose the full scope of Turner’s GPS movements.
Pascoe’s filing Friday not only laid out the facts of Turner’s violations, it fired a very important shot across the bow with statewide implications.
Bond companies in South Carolina are paid to hold defendants accountable to the terms of their release. Part of this is through the state’s ankle-monitoring program.
One problem with that?
Defendants on ankle monitors are also the bond company’s customer.
Perhaps their best customer.
According to Pascoe’s filing, bond companies are paid for each week or month that a defendant is wearing the ankle monitor.
At the heart of his filing is this question: What incentive — other than the fear of being held in criminal contempt — do South Carolina’s bond companies have to report defendants’ violations when doing so cuts off a steady source of revenue?
The Turner Case
Earlier this month, the Bowen Turner case drew international attention — and outrage — when Turner was allowed to plead guilty to a single charge of first-degree assault and battery, for which he was sentenced to five years of probation without having to register as a sex offender.
Many saw Turner’s deal as a bought-and-paid-for outcome, one attainable solely because of who Turner had hired to represent him — state Sen. Brad Hutto.
South Carolina’s judicial system can work exponentially better for those who are able to hire attorneys who also serve as legislators.
In other words, those who can afford the hefty price tag.
In this state, legislators choose the Circuit Court judges and magistrates. As a result, legislator-attorneys — who already have unique access to information and seats of power that private attorneys might not have — wield an outsized amount of influence in the courtroom.
Even a legislator-attorney’s mere attachment to a case can create more favorable results for their clients.
In Turner’s case(s), here’s how this shook out as it relates to the “strict” conditions of his bond …
After his second arrest for first-degree criminal sexual conduct in July 2019, Turner was denied bond.
For his 17th birthday, though, Turner received a gift from a second judge.
Hutto successfully argued that because of his birthday, Turner — who was being tried as an adult on the two charges — would now be moved from the Department of Juvenile Justice to the Orangeburg County Detention Center, according to the Times and Democrat.
The judge agreed to free Turner but “imposed numerous strict conditions,” according to Pascoe’s filing.
Included in those terms were a $100,000 surety bond, home detention and GPS monitoring. Turner was only permitted to leave his grandmother’s house between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for attorney visits, court appearances, mental health counseling and medical emergencies.
This means Turner was not allowed to visit golf courses, the mall, the graves of girls he was accused of sexually assaulting, the state of Georgia or car dealerships — all places he went between November 2021 and February.
Sources tell FITSNews that Bowen Turner’s violations were widely known, and at least one family member of the victims had reported him to law enforcement multiple times before the situation was addressed.
On March 2, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division received the bond company’s report of Turner’s GPS coordinates showing dozens of violations.
Though Pascoe wrote in his Friday filing that “Second Circuit Deputy Solicitor David Miller immediately filed a motion to revoke Defendant’s bond on March 25,” a writ of mandamus filed April 6 by the victims’ attorney Sarah Ford indicates that the solicitor’s office and SLED sat on the information for weeks before acting.
According to the August 2019 court order, which was revised in March 2020 to allow Turner to live with his parents instead of his grandmother, any violation of the terms was to be reported to law enforcement by the bond company within 24 hours.
Pascoe’s filing noted that this was not done.
Not noted in Pascoe’s filing, though, is that the judge had also ordered that Turner be immediately arrested upon any report of a violation and that he await his hearing behind bars.
That is not what happened.
Instead, Turner awaited his hearing at home.
And that bond revocation hearing turned into a plea deal hearing, after which Turner was a free man — albeit a “free man” on probation.
The important thing to note here is that prior to the hearing, Hutto – because of his protected position as a legislator — was able to delay trial in Turner’s cases.
Delaying trial is a defense tactic that puts space between the accusation and the adjudication during which victims and witnesses might lose their will to testify, investigators might leave their jobs and move out of state, evidence might get lost, policies might get broken, law enforcement officers might get disciplined — any number of scenarios can occur that could help the defense attorney create enough reasonable doubt in a single juror of his client’s guilt.
Something else that can happen during these excessive delays? Victims can die. And this is what happened in Turner’s case. Orangeburg resident Dallas Stoller died in November 2021, more than three years after she reported that Turner sexually assaulted her at a party.
As soon as it suited Turner, though — as soon as it became clear that he might be jailed for violating a judge’s order — adjudication happened in seemingly record time.
In Turner’s plea deal, the charge in Stoller’s case was dismissed.
Or was it? Read FITSNews’ exclusive report about how these cases potentially could be reopened by law enforcement here.
Beyond Turner …
In May 2018, Solicitor Pascoe received a call from the father of first known victim in Calhoun County.
Because of this — and because Turner’s father was an employee of Pascoe’s office at the time — the First Circuit Solicitor’s Office recused itself from the case and the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office took over.
Pascoe reported the assault to SLED, according to Friday’s filing. SLED declined to press charges.
Turner was arrested on Jan. 29, 2019, and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Stoller case. He was granted bond but had to wear an ankle monitor. Less than three months later, a judge allowed him to remove the monitor. Forty-one days after the monitor was removed, he was again accused of assaulting another girl.
Would ankle-monitoring have prevented this third assault from occurring?
Hard to say given what we know about this egregiously broken system.
In his filing, Pascoe writes “GPS monitoring is seemingly an attractive compromise between preventing defendants from sitting in jails for months or years and protecting the public from potentially dangerous individuals roaming the streets unsupervised. Such monitoring systems are only effective if entities charged with monitoring the defendant’s whereabouts pay attention and notify the State when violations occur.”
“Illery failed entirely on both accounts,” Pascoe said in the filing.
There is an “inherent conflict” between the GPS provider’s duties and their business.
Pascoe writes: “If the courts do nothing to hold these GPS monitoring services accountable for their failures,” then they have “no reason” to comply with the terms of a bond order.
He is asking the court to hold the company in contempt and for the forfeiture of the $100,000 surety bond that allowed Turner the privilege of being on an ankle monitor at home.
Brette Tabatabai, the older sister of Dallas Stoller who has become a leading voice in the fight for justice on behalf of South Carolina’s sexual assault victims, said on Friday: “Accountability has to be held across the board, otherwise nothing will change. There’s no half right thing to do and half wrong thing to do. It’s right or wrong. Period.”