YOUNGSTOWN COURT Woman ordered to forfeit $12,000

YOUNGSTOWN -- Heidi Phillis had two options: Bring three men to municipal court or forfeit the $12,000 in bonds she had guaranteed.
Since none of the men showed Tuesday afternoon at a show-cause hearing, Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly figured Phillis chose the second option. The judge ordered that she pay the clerk of court $12,000.
Phillis, as an independent contractor for Acme Bonding, failed to list the bonding company's power-of-attorney number when she wrote the three bonds, Clerk Sarah Brown-Clark told the judge. Without that number, Phillis is personally responsible, not Acme, Brown-Clark said.
Judge Kobly said what Phillis did represents very poor business practice. "It appears you're writing bonds yourself," she said.
Reasons given: The judge was not persuaded by Phillis' explanations, which included saying that she could not reach one man with the phone numbers she'd been given.
Another defendant does construction work out of the city, and his lawyer thought the case would be reset, she learned from the bond co-signer.
"Well, that's not so," Judge Kobly said.
Pat Pico, who runs Acme with Jim "Woody" Horvath, told the judge that he'd been in phone contact with the third defendant, who failed to appear for trial June 29. The man hired a lawyer and "said he wants to take care of it," Pico said in court.
Judge Kobly then gave what she called her impression of how it should work: "If you guarantee a bond, you better damn well get them here."
Fed up: In late June, Brown-Clark announced that, unless bonding companies paid what they owed for defendants who skipped court appearances, she would prohibit them from writing bonds at her counter. She said inmates hunting for a bondsman might find themselves stuck in the county jail.
At the time, the clerk was owed $100,000 to $130,000, most of which has been paid. More show-cause hearings are scheduled this month for newer cases.
In the past, if and when collections were pursued under the former clerk of court, bondsmen forfeited only 10 percent of the bond amount when their clients failed to show up for court. If, for example, a judge set a defendant's bond at $5,000, the forfeiture was $500.
Brown-Clark wants the full amount and said she has the judges' support.
Judge Kobly, on the bench for about 10 months, said in court Tuesday that bonds hadn't been dealt with correctly over the years. She attempted to clear up some of the confusion that has appeared since Brown-Clark issued an ultimatum.
Other cases: The judge and Atty. Michael J. Rich, who represents Acme, discussed the ways in which a bonding company can have a bond recalled when it feels it can't guarantee a defendant's appearance.
Rich filed a motion before court asking that Acme be released from the $4,000 in bonds written by Horvath for a man who failed to appear in court June 14.
"We don't feel we can assure his appearance," Rich said.
Once the judge assured herself that Acme had played a part in the man's subsequent arrest July 31, she granted the motion. The man was due back in court today.
Judge Kobly also had Liberty Bonding scheduled for a show-cause hearing Tuesday, but a representative failed to appear. The woman for whom bail bondsman Dan Nickle wrote $3,000 in bonds was arrested Monday for failing to come to trial May 5.
Judge Kobly, citing again the confusion of prior years, said she would not hold Nickle in contempt of court but will contact him to find out what happened.

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