Attorney says McDaniel won't be able to pay $850,000 murder bond

Telegraph staffApril 11, 2012 

Although a judge on Wednesday set an $850,000 bond for the man accused in the June slaying of Lauren Giddings, that doesn’t mean suspect Stephen Mark McDaniel is about to get out of jail.

For that to happen, bond also must be set in two other cases against him. McDaniel is charged with 30 counts of sexual exploitation of children as well as two counts of burglary.

McDaniel is not automatically entitled to bond on the sex charges because he was indicted within 90 days of his arrest, said District Attorney Greg Winters.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Kaitlyn Wheeler, Giddings’ younger sister, said, “The thought of him leaving jail is uncomfortable for all of us. ... But right now, there’s no panic.”

Winters said he hoped for a higher bond, but he accepts the judge’s ruling.

While one of McDaniel’s attorneys said he’s pleased that bond was set, the amount of money required likely will be problematic for him.

“I don’t believe he’s going to be able to post that type of bond,” defense attorney Floyd Buford said.

Buford said he expected that getting bond set would be “an uphill fight.”

“We were optimistic. We thought we had a case with some good points and still believe that. But we also recognize quite clearly that it’s a very serious charge,” he said. “You don’t see individuals often in Georgia that are indicted, in which the district attorney is seeking the death penalty, you don’t see too many of those individuals walking around on bond.”

Buford said additional requirements set for McDaniel’s release are “things we can work out.”

The order, signed by Bibb County Chief Superior Court Judge S. Phillip Brown, requires McDaniel to wear an ankle monitor at his own expense and for him to stay at his parents’ home in Lilburn unless he’s traveling to meet with his lawyers or attend court.

McDaniel also is not allowed to be alone with children “under any circumstances.” If children are at his parents’ home, at least one adult must be at the house in addition to McDaniel, according to the order.

McDaniel’s parents have custody of four of his sister’s children whom they have adopted. The children are under the age of 11.

Brown also prohibited McDaniel from having access to electronic communication devices such as cell phones and computers, but he’s allowed to use the devices to communicate with his lawyers and parents, according to the order.

He also can’t have access to weapons.

A plan, detailing arrangements for McDaniel meeting conditions of his bond, must be approved by the judge prior to McDaniel’s release, according to court records.

The defense team is considering filing a motion requesting that Brown reconsider the bond and allow McDaniel’s lawyers to present evidence that McDaniel isn’t a danger to his siblings, said Franklin J. Hogue, McDaniel’s other attorney.

The bond comes more than a week after Brown expressed concerns that defense attorneys didn’t present evidence about whether McDaniel would be a harm to himself if he is let out of jail. McDaniel has been locked up in the Bibb jail’s infirmary since his July 1 arrest.

Prosecutors requested the bond be set at $2.5 million with requirements that McDaniel be confined to his home with an ankle monitor and not be allowed to have unsupervised access to children.

McDaniel’s attorneys argued that a bond higher than $100,000 would be akin to denying bond for McDaniel because his family wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Brown wrote in the bond order that he realizes $850,000 is an amount larger than the “self-reported financial assets” of McDaniel and his parents.

“Yet that is not unusual in the court’s experience,” he wrote.

McDaniel is accused in the death and dismemberment of Giddings, his 27-year-old neighbor and Mercer University law school classmate. Police found Giddings’ torso in a trash bin outside her Georgia Avenue apartment building June 30.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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