Judge gives OK on case

Prosecutors' charges may proceed against two bounty hunters

Accused after home raid

Agents of bondsman were `just doing their job,' lawyer asserts

March 06, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Howard County prosecutors can proceed with charges against two Baltimore bounty hunters accused of holding five non-English-speaking people hostage in their own apartment late last year, District Judge Neil Edward Axel ruled after a routine probable-cause hearing yesterday.

Everett Ambush Chambers, 26, and Darnell Anthony Brown, 29, have been charged with 28 counts each that stem from a Dec. 19 incident in a Town & Country Boulevard apartment in Ellicott City.

Charges against them range from kidnapping to armed robbery to first-degree assault.

Howard County Detective Steve Lampe testified that the two men watched television, ordered the residents to make them food and drove to Catonsville with one of the female residents. The men stayed at the apartment from midnight until about 2:40 a.m., Lampe said.

Defense lawyer Kenneth S. Ward said he was not surprised that Axel did not drop the charges against his clients.

During the 45-minute hearing yesterday, Ward hinted at his defense strategy by questioning Lampe about the number of people who resided at the apartment in the 8700 block of Town & Country Blvd.

Ward has said the address matches that of bail jumpers who had been bonded by Prestige Bail Bonds, the company that employs Chambers and Brown as bounty hunters.

However, Axel ruled that Ward could not raise that issue during the hearing because it qualifies as an affirmative defense.

After the hearing, Ward said he has proof Chambers and Brown were at the right apartment. He said the two were searching for Doriz Mazariego and Victor Borjaslinares, who were bonded after theft charges in August.

Court documents show the address for both Mazariego and Borjaslinares matches the address from the Dec. 19 incident. Court records also show that both were bonded by Prestige Bail Bonds, in the 2300 block of Belair Road in Baltimore, and that both skipped a Sept. 12 court date.

Ward said Chambers and Brown made a visual identification of Mazariego, who Ward said is actually resident Maria Gonzales-Lara, and spotted mail in the apartment for Borjaslinares. Ward said the bounty hunters stayed at the apartment Dec. 19 to await Borjalinares' return.

"These are two hard-working, blue-collar guys who were just doing their job," Ward said of Chambers and Brown after the hearing.

Howard prosecutors have said the men had the wrong apartment.

In court testimony, Lampe said he was "unable to verify who leased the apartment" in question and could not determine how many people lived there.

"The police did not conduct a full investigation," Ward said. "If they did, we wouldn't be here right now. They rushed to judgment."

As authorized agents of a licensed bondsman, Chambers and Brown are extended special privileges in their right to retrieve people bonded by their employer.

Court documents, prosecutors, Ward and Lampe all have referred to Chambers and Brown as "bondsmen," but a bond industry representative pointed out yesterday that the term "bondsman" applies only to those who have been licensed by the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Regardless of the term used, bond experts said the same legal privileges that apply to licensed bondsmen also apply to their authorized employees. Chambers and Brown have worked for Prestige Bail Bonds for about three years, Ward said.

"The difference in terminology is without meaning for people who come face to face with someone entering their home late at night," said Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor who has studied the bond industry. "It's very hard to understand how bondsmen separate themselves from people they hire."

Prosecutor Lynn Marshall, who handled the case in District Court, said the state's attorney's office is reviewing the charges against Chambers and Brown.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to seek an indictment against the men, which would move the case to Circuit Court.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.