Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many criminal court judges in the state’s largest county have been implementing lenient bond policies even for habitual criminals, which some say is leading to repeat offenses and higher overall crime rates.
Timothy Singleton, who was at the center of a bond dispute reported by The Texan last month, had been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and had numerous prior convictions. After an appeal from the Harris County district attorney’s office, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals increased his bond from the $500 set by a district court judge to $100,000.
Houston police officers re-arrested Singleton last week, but he reportedly told police he wasn’t worried about the $100,000 bond because he could handle it easily and would be out and about again.
According to a probable cause document from a 2010 arrest, Singleton was matched by name and address at that time to a gang tracker database.
Andy Kahan, Director of Victim Services for Crime Stoppers Houston, has been tracking other recent cases and providing publicly available information about suspects’ criminal and bond histories.
Kahan has noted that in addition to the Singleton case, two recent murder cases in Harris County involve suspects who were bonded out for other crimes.
In one instance, suspect Tyler Pringle was arrested on April 24 for the murder of two people found shot to death after a robbery at a Houston apartment.
Pringle had been previously arrested on charges of drug possession in 2018, but again in October of 2019 for charges of assault with intent to impede breathing after he allegedly attempted to strangle his ex-girlfriend.
After his 2019 arrest for a violent felony, the district attorney’s office filed a motion to revoke Pringle’s first bond, but that motion was denied by the 339th Criminal Court and he was released on a $15,000 bond.
Pringle is now held on capital murder charges in the Harris County jail.
In a second murder case, 53-year-old Daniel Musterman was beaten in a southwest Houston Walmart parking lot after three men attacked him and allegedly stole his wallet. Musterman was hospitalized and on life support after the April 9 beating but died on April 16.
All three suspects arrested for Musterman’s murder are 18 years of age, and local media refers to them as teens, but few media reports have included details of the suspects’ criminal history or bond status.
One of the three, Jeremiah King, had already been granted three personal bonds for charges dating back to March 29, 2019. After failing to appear for his court dates, Judge Erica Hughes issued personal bonds for King on June 5, 2019 and again on January 3, 2020.
Another suspect, Kevin White, was out on personal bond for felony theft charges issued in February 2020. The third man, Jahad Hill was free on deferred adjudication for burglary of a building, which is considered a non-violent offense.
Now arrested for the murder of Daniel Musterman, the three are detained in the Harris County Jail. Judge Dasean Jones has set White’s bond at $75,000, King’s bond at $100,000, and bond for Jahad Hill, who is also charged with unlawful carry of a weapon, at $125,000.
In light of the bond history of these suspects, Kahan asks, “Did the criminal justice system play a role in the murder of Daniel Musterman who, while caring for his 87-year old mother who has Alzheimer’s, lost his life just going to Walmart to pick up items for her?”
“This could be any of us anywhere in Harris County,” Kahan said.
Harris County is already operating under the conditions of a controversial consent decree regarding misdemeanor bonds, and there are pending lawsuits over felony bond policies in several Texas counties, including Harris, Dallas, and Galveston.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Cypress, Texas. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.