bail reform

The founder of One4US Brand, Tony Johnson, says the unjust arrest of a family member in early July makes him more determined than ever to tackle the bail bond crisis.

Johnson had already been actively advocating for reform because those who lack financial means are often unjustly jailed even though they pose no danger to society.

But it was his first-hand experience that led him to plan an event at the Atwater Neighborhood Resource Center for 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9.

The charges against Johnson’s family members were dropped. However, he says the experience made him all the  more aware of the challenges faced by those without proper legal defense or the financial resources to be bailed out. 

Many individuals endure long periods in jail before their case comes to trial. 

Johnson says he got a phone call from his great-nephew telling him that his parents were being arrested and asking for help.

“My wife and I rushed to their house to understand the situation,” Johnson says.”When we arrived, we were met by officers who informed us that our niece and nephew were being taken to jail. The reason given was that inappropriate text messages had been sent, but no details were provided.”

He said he and his wife pressed for details and were told the charge was Felony Obstruction and their nephew had appeared ready to break the phone.

The situation was made even more confusing by the fact that their son, who received the messages, had called the police in the first place. Officers had come to the house to investigate and he was outside talking to officers when his parents came outside to see what was going on.

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“The officers informed them of the accusations and the parents verified the messages by looking through the phone,” Johnson says. At that point, the officers confiscated the phone and interpreted the dad’s questioning of that as a threat and arrested both parents.

Johnson, who is a former law enforcement officer, questioned the arrests.

“It made no sense for them to charge my nephew and his wife with felony obstruction because he hadn’t resisted them in any way and had handed them the phone as evidence that his son was being victimized,” Johnson says.

Despite his objections, officers insisted on proceeding with the arrest.

Johnson called a bondsman, friends and eventually spoke with the Chief of Police and obtained assurance that his niece would be released but his nephew would be held overnight.

The following morning an Assistant District Attorney visited the jail and confirmed that his nephew was wrongly arrested and dropped all charges.

Johnson says he is well aware that a person without resources and connections might have faced a different outcome. 

Speakers for Saturday’s event include Angel Martinez, owner of Wichita Bonding Co; Dr, Kevin Harrison X, founder of The Breathe Project; Dr. William Polite, founder of Protect Your Mind: School Halls Not Prison Walls; Dante Bristow and ASdonijah Metcalf, Representatives from Progency; Latahra Carne, founder of KC Freedom Project and State Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau.

P.J. Griekspoor is a semi-retired veteran journalist with 55 years experience in writing and editing in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wichita.  She spent 18 years at the Wichita Eagle...