Lancaster County Judge Margaret Miller made the ruling at a hearing last week regarding Dante Seals skipping his Aug. 4 trial date over felony weapons charges and fleeing police.Seals, 25, was free since January when bondsman Sylvester “Casey” Jones posted $110,000 cash bail on six felonies and related, lesser counts.
The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, consisting of local sheriff deputies and other law-enforcement officials, nabbed Seals Aug. 19 at a Manheim Township hotel.
Jones, according to Judge Miller’s ruling, made no effort to find his client.
The task force located Seals after receiving tips on his whereabouts, according to Assistant District Attorney Amber Czerniakowski.
Bondsmen are required to search for a client that skips a court date and becomes a fugitive.
Bondsmen post bail for defendants who can’t on their own. In turn, the defendant pays the bondsman an interest sum.
A bond essentially guarantees that a defendant out on bail will show up for court.
Local prosecutors said it’s common practice for bondsmen to request back the bail they posted — even when the defendant flees. And they often get it back, prosecutors said.
That wasn’t the case Thursday in Judge Miller’s courtroom.
Jones asked her to return the cash posted; she refused.
Miller noted in court that Jones made no efforts to find Seals and only asked for his money back after the task force made the arrest, officials said.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said he hopes the ruling will prompt bondsmen to take action when a client — in this case, a previously-convicted felon — goes AWOL.
“Bondsmen have obligations which go along with money they receive,” Stedman said. “But, for many years, they have only rarely been held accountable when the defendant fails to appear.”
Seals’ bond is believed to be one of the largest forfeitures here in recent history.
“Hopefully, this ruling will lead to closer scrutiny of the cases (bondsmen) are willing to take, as well as improved court effiency,” Stedman said.
Attempts to reach Jones weren’t successful.
Also in court last week, Miller raised Seals’ bail to $2 million. A new trial date hasn’t been set.
Regarding Seals’ charges, he is accused of having a loaded, .40-caliber pistol in July 2013 that was reported stolen the previous month.
Seals allegedly ran from Lancaster city Police officers when they were called to a home on East Walnut Street July 12, 2013, for a domestic dispute, court documents show. Seals also had a chrome revolver, documents show.
He has a prior felony conviction in Baltimore, Md. for drug-dealing which prohibits him from possesing firearms, according to city police Lt. Todd Umstead.