FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Texas Mothers Jailed Five Days in Louisiana Over Two Hot Dogs

by

shutterstock_115894420

Two Texas mothers, who police said had no criminal record, spent five days in a notorious Louisiana jail over charges they ate two hot dogs, milkshakes and an Icee at a convenience store. The women were ordered held on $1500 dollar bond each despite the fact they had just voluntarily driven over 400 miles from Dallas to show up in court to contest the charges against them.

On January 15, 2016, Ms. Walnetta Reid and Ms. Tristan Ellis, mothers from Dallas, were stopped by a police officer in New Iberia, Louisiana. The police told the women they had been accused of eating two hot dogs and drinking milkshakes and an icee in a gas station convenience store without paying. The police officer handcuffed the two women and placed them in the back of the patrol car. The women told the police officer they had not taken anything from the store. They pleaded with the officer to look at the store surveillance videotape which would prove their innocence. They told the officer they did go into the store but only to use the store microwave to heat up some soup they had bought at another store and for which they had a receipt. The officer ran their names through his computer and found out they had no criminal records. He released the women with a summons to appear in New Iberia City Court on March 14, 2016.

Both Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis are active in volunteer work in Dallas helping young people. They told a friend who does volunteer work with them, C.J. Bible, they had to return to Louisiana to clear their names.

Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis drove the 400 miles to appear in New Iberia City Court on Monday March 14, 2016. They expected their case to go to trial. They planned to show the court their receipt for the soup and explain to the judge that Ms. Ellis is a vegan and never eats meat of any kind, much less a hot dog. Though they could not afford an attorney, they expected to be found innocent once the judge looked at the store videotape.

But when their case came up, they were told there was not going to be a trial. Court was only for them to plead not guilty or guilty. They plead not guilty and the court set the trial for May 25. They thought it was all over for the day until the Prosecutor asked the Judge to set cash bail on them since they had showed up on a summons and were from out of state. Despite that they had voluntarily driven 400 miles one way to appear in court, and they had no criminal record, the judge ordered each women to put up a $1500 bail, plus $240 in court fees.

They were told to follow a deputy into the back. The deputy then asked them if they were ready to bail out. They said could not afford $1740 each for bail. The deputy asked if some of their family could come and put up the money. They explained they had no family around and no way to raise the money. Their cash and valuables were taken from them and they were placed in the Iberia Parish jail.

Iberia Parish Jail is a scary place.   Recently six Iberia Parish deputies pled guilty to federal charges in the beating, choking and sexual intimidation of inmates inside the chapel in the jail, the only room where there is not a camera. Other videos have surfaced showing a deputy using attack dogs to repeatedly bite an inmate on the ground with the deputy joining in stomping and kicking the prone inmate.

The women were told that unless the bonded out they would stay until their trial on May 25!

They started calling family and friends in Dallas but no one had $3400 to bond them out.

As Monday turned into Tuesday, their Dallas friend, C.J. Bible, called several local bond companies but none would write commercial bonds for them since they were from out of state.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Bible started calling the prosecutor’s office to ask if she could do something to release them or reduce their bond so they could return home to their children. But there was no reduction.

Bible said “These women are beloved in our community. For years, they have been helping young people out. Why put loving mothers in jail when they came to court voluntarily? Especially over some hot dogs! I am sure they did not take anyone’s hot dogs but even if the court believes they did it, they are still innocent till proven guilty. They were being punished before their trial and I think it was all because they are poor.”

Finally, on Friday March 18, Bible started reaching out to TV and newspapers in the area. Television station KATC talked with Bible and ran a story Friday afternoon titled “Dallas Mothers Jailed for Five Days in Iberia Parish over Icees, Hot Dogs.

New Iberia attorney Michael Moity saw the women’s story and decided to help out. He immediately put up his own money to bond the women out of jail and volunteered to defend them for free even without meeting them. Moity told KATC, “Nobody should spend five days in jail over a misdemeanor just because they’re from out of town.”

The women were finally released from Iberia jail late Friday evening and arrived back in Dallas about 4am Saturday.

Ms. Reid said she jail was very hard. “I was praying and praying because I could not figure out why God put me in this situation. I finally decided God put me here to help other people and to tell what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”

Without the Good Samaritans C.J. Bible and attorney Michael Moity both women would still be in Iberia Parish Jail awaiting their May 25 trial date.

The prosecutor, when asked if she had any second thoughts about how the way Iberia City Court behaved towards the women, said no. “There is nothing out of the ordinary in the way these women were treated.”

Unfortunately that is likely true. According to The Marshall Project, more than 450,000 people are in jail awaiting trial every day, five out of six of whom are there because they could not make bond.

This despite the fact that US law is clear that people awaiting trial are presumed innocent. The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits excessive bail. The US Supreme Court has also made it clear that “liberty is the norm and detention prior to trial is the carefully limited exception” when people are flight risks or a danger to the community. The American Bar Association says putting people in jail before trial should only be done in the most limited conditions when there has been a hearing showing the person is a flight risk or a danger to the community.  Louisiana bonding practices have already been successfully challenged in federal court. Lawsuits have been won across the nation against local governments which hold people in jail awaiting trial just because they are poor.

Both women plan to return to New Iberia for their trial and expect to be found innocent of the charges.

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail