Three bounty hunters charged with assault

Bondsman feared woman would skip court date

July 04, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Three contracted bounty hunters were arrested yesterday and charged with breaking into a South Baltimore house, beating up a woman and kidnapping her as they attempted to take her to jail.

Bounty hunters Michael Barringer, 43, Barbara Burton, 44, and Jeffrey Lutz, 44, are accused of breaking into a house in the 200 block of S. Gilmor St. about 1 a.m. and punching, kicking and beating Leah French, the woman they were looking for, according to charging documents.

French, 19, was put in the covered back of a flat-bed truck, where police found her yelling "Let me out" while the bounty hunters stood around the truck, the report says.

French had not missed a court date, but the bondsman who posted her bail, Joseph M. Zahl Jr., feared that she would not show up for a court appearance next week. Early yesterday morning, Zahl deputized three bounty hunters and sent them to look for French.

Zahl had posted $10,000 bail for French last month after she was arrested on drug charges. A bondsman can have his bail returned at any point before the defendant's court date if that person is taken back to jail.

"I said, `You go find her. You are my deputies,' " Zahl said last night in an interview.

Zahl said the bounty hunters did not assault French.

The three bounty hunters were charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault, kidnapping and breaking and entering. They were also charged with beating French's boyfriend, Donnell Batch, and Shannon Collins, whose house they are accused of breaking into.

Zahl said police had no right to arrest his bounty hunters and take French to jail because she was his prisoner.

"Police are overstepping their boundaries," he said. "They aren't allowed to do that."

French suffered bruises to her face, back and arms, cuts to her face and possibly a broken nose, police reports say.

Court records show that Barringer has been arrested numerous times and was convicted of drug possession in 2000 and of second-degree assault in 1997.

Lutz was placed on probation after being charged with second-degree assault in 1999.

Burton was released last night on $25,000 bail. Barringer and Lutz remained at Central Booking and Intake Center last night on $25,000 and $10,000 bail respectively. French remained in custody and was receiving treatment for her injuries.

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