Bail windfall goes from bonanza to bust

April 22, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

After Edward Pinkney received a suspended sentence for possession of marijuana, he and his wife went to claim the $750 bond they had paid to secure his release while awaiting trial. Imagine their surprise when Baltimore court officials mistakenly cut them a check for almost $7,500.

"I thought it was a blessing straight from God," Mr. Pinkney said. "I was ecstatic. . . . I was running around like I was crazy."

Now, however, Mr. Pinkney is feeling more cursed than blessed. Circuit Court officials are threatening to prosecute if he doesn't repay the money, and he says he no longer has it all.

Mr. Pinkney's troubles began last July when plainclothes Baltimore police officers arrested him on drug charges. His bail was set at $7,500, but 10 percent down gained his freedom. Mr. Pinkney said his wife posted the $750 bond.

After being found guilty of possession of marijuana last October in District Court, Mr. Pinkney received a one-year suspended sentence with six months of unsupervised probation. The sentence was affirmed after Mr. Pinkney dropped an appeal.

The Pinkneys went to retrieve the bail money. But instead of getting a check for $742.50 -- the $750 less the court's 1 percent service charge -- they got a check for $7,425.

Mr. Pinkney, 32, says he and his wife didn't realize the error until they cashed the check.

"My wife started to say something. I nudged her and said, 'Be quiet,' " he said. "She was saying, 'Aw, baby, you have to take this back.' I said, 'We'll put most of it away in case they want it back.' I put $5,000 away, but before you know it $5,000 was $4,000 and $4,000 was $3,000."

He said he spent "a lot on bills and very little on a nice night out."

James G. Mertel, head of the accounting department in the court clerk's office, said he discovered the mistake Friday.

Court officials then sent a certified letter to Mrs. Pinkney -- whose name is listed as having posted the bond -- demanding the $6,682.50 overpayment.

The Pinkneys met with court officials Tuesday and paid $3,000.

Mr. Mertel said the Pinkneys were to return yesterday to set up a payment plan for the balance.

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