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School Boards Trying to Collect Forfeited Jail Bonds

Posted November 29, 2007
Updated November 30, 2007

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— Fines and forfeitures of jail bonds account for more than $60 million in school funding across the state. But collecting that money was not always such a high priority.

In the criminal case of James Marvin Johnson, for example, his brother, Donald Johnson, put up his home and Lillington business, C&J Auto, to cover the $225,000 bond.

James Marvin Johnson remains on the run after skipping out on bond in the 1999 rape of a 12-year-old girl. By law, Donald Johnson was supposed to pay the full amount when his brother bolted.

A well-known businessman, Johnson pleaded with the court and school board for relief, saying he spent about $50,000 to track down his brother.

Court records show Johnson eventually paid $10,000 of the $225,000. He said he feels like he got off easy.

"They could have took everything I had. My business and all," he said.

Johnson's gain was the schools' loss. In 2006, Harnett County took in more than $549,663 from fines and forfeitures, while Wake County raked in close to $6 million. So far in 2007, Johnston County has gained approximately $600,000 from bail bonds.

Johnston County Board of Education attorney Jim Lawrence said school systems are working harder than ever to collect.

"That's $600,000 for classrooms. ... And why not follow them up and get whatever money we can?" he said.

Durham bondsman Tony Woods, president of the North Carolina Bail Agents Association, said a change in the law makes it much tougher now to get relief on forfeited bonds.

Still, Woods believes that many courts treat family and friends with far more leniency.

"The layperson is not held to the standard of the bail bondsman when it comes time to pay," Woods said. "No, that's not (fair)."

There have been signs that courts are toughening up on those kinds of forfeitures. Harnett County School Board Attorney Duncan McCormick, who approved the reduction in the Johnson bond, said he probably would not have allowed it today.

As for himself, Donald Johnson said he has learned his lesson about ponying up for bonds.

"I will never sign a bond again as long as I live," he said. "If you run, you're guilty. ... The Bible says to forgive, but I never forget."

18 Comments

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  • NCTeacher4327 Nov 30, 2007

    Some of you obviously need to do a little more research before you start spewing your opinions. Money from the lottery goes to construction for schools. It costs millions of dollars to build one school. The article clearly stated that the money from bail bonds goes to the classroom...this means that it goes towards supplies and textbooks.

  • SHELLYGIRL Nov 30, 2007

    I SAY THAT WE START A STRIKE AGAINST THE LOTTERY. NO ONE BUYS ANTHING OR PLAYS ANYTHING FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER AND LETS SEE WHAT THEY BLAME IT ON THEN.

  • aintbackingdwn Nov 30, 2007

    What happened to all the school profits from drug vehicle seisures? The storage costs exceeded the auction profits. I never figured this one out. I'd gladly put 5 or 10 grand for a 2007 vehicle.

    Then there was the lottery. Then they tried to raise taxes. Then the school bond. Now you get your house re-valued. Where the hell is all the money going if the schools aren't getting it?

  • brassy Nov 30, 2007

    Between the bonds and the lottery, I don't see how the schools are hurting for money. Where does all the money go? We need to audit these guys.

  • hpr641 Nov 30, 2007

    dlb800, I'm with you, man. He made a very risky bet and lost.

    Now, say you got another set of brothers, with 1 a respected home / small business owner and the other charged with a couple Class A felonies. If the "good" brother puts up his house and business, the "bad" brother now knows he can run, and still not cause his brother to lose his home & business.

    Side note: If it became sure that this guy really was going to lose his home and business, who's to say that his brother wouldn't suddenly appear.

  • dlb800 Nov 30, 2007

    I don't care if Donald Johnson is a good guy or not. He should have thought twice about putting up his business for the bond.

    He should have lost it all. (Not that I think the schools should have received it)

  • nc resident Nov 30, 2007

    go get the money boys, promote more violence that leads to bigger bail...cash in on everything you can imagine besides that money should only support the justice system and not degrade the students with dirty money besides, that's what the lottery is for...let the runners pay for the people in jail instead of taxpayers...Notice wake countys numbers....Bail set at 100K for jaywalking....typical if you got it....Murder...100 bucks for those that don't

  • grant Nov 30, 2007

    I would say where are the lottery profits, alas we didnt have one when I was in school.

  • grant Nov 30, 2007

    Schools in need of money? Where is the lottery profits????????????

  • weasleyes Nov 30, 2007

    In this lifetime, will we never see an end to the incessant plea for money for schools? It seems like every week there is something about money for schools. What do they do with the billions they have?

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