A Bibb County judge ruled Tuesday that the bond for accused killer Stephen McDaniel should remain at $850,000.
McDaniel, 26, is charged with murder in the June 2011 slaying and dismemberment of his neighbor and fellow Mercer law graduate Lauren Giddings. Police recovered the 27-year-old Giddings’ dismembered torso from a trash can beside her Georgia Avenue apartment building.
During the hearing, attorney Franklin J. Hogue argued that the bond, originally set by Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown in April, was “excessive” and a violation of McDaniel’s constitutional rights.
Hogue said he’s contacted local bonding companies to determine how much money or collateral McDaniel’s family would have to provide for the bondsmen to post his $850,000 bond. He said the bondsmen would require $1.5 million in collateral to cover their risk.
“There’s no way we can get anywhere close,” he told Brown. “The family can’t afford more than $150,000.”
Prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor said the family’s assets may have changed following the death of McDaniel’s grandfather.
The Telegraph learned in April that Hollis Browning, the grandfather who owned a farm in Pike County, died April 24. Browning offered to pay a retainer for a lawyer to represent McDaniel when he was first charged with burglary July 1.
Hogue said the family’s possibly inheriting from Browning’s estate is mere speculation.
“There is no money there for us or for him to post bond with, not now and possibly not ever,” he said.
After the hearing, Floyd Buford, another McDaniel attorney, said there’s been no public administration of Browning’s will or executors appointed.
Buford read aloud an affidavit from McDaniel’s mother during the hearing as evidence that McDaniel wouldn’t be a danger to children if he’s released on bond. Brown previously ordered that McDaniel be confined to his parents’ Lilburn home and not have unsupervised contact with children if he posted a bail bond.
Buford said children in the household are ages 6, 7, 9 and 11.
Brown expressed concerns about how much McDaniel’s being released on bond could affect his lawyers’ ability to investigate his case.
“He’d be the only one to know who to call and contact,” Brown said.
He recalled a murder case in which a woman was allowed to be released into her attorney’s custody for the same reason.
Hogue said it was actually a client of his, Pamela Frye. He picked her up from jail and returned her each Friday for a year.
Frye pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the 1996 fatal poisoning of her mother and was released from prison in 2005. Frye, now known as Pamela Moss, was charged this year in the March killing of a McDonough businessman whose body was found under the porch of her home.
Brown paused the hearing about 15 minutes and asked that the prosecutors and defense attorneys confer about whether McDaniel should be allowed to leave jail to help investigate his case.
When court reconvened, Hogue said the attorneys didn’t reach an agreement.
“The state wants Mr. McDaniel to stay in jail. In fact, they want to kill him,” he said.
Brown ended the hearing, saying “As for now, I’m going to leave things as they are.”
McDaniel also is charged with two counts of burglary and 30 counts of sexual exploitation of children, stemming from his alleged possession of child pornography. He must post a bond for all charges against him before he can be released from the Bibb County jail.
Following the hearing, Hogue said McDaniel was in “good spirits,” although he wants to leave jail.
Hogue said he and Buford still are examining evidence that prosecutors provided to them through the discovery process and are aware of a recent audit of Macon police evidence-handling procedures.
“We’re all over that,” Hogue said.
So far, they haven’t found any instances that evidence was mishandled or seized illegally, the lawyers said.
Much of Tuesday’s hearing centered on an Internet discussion board post that prosecutors attributed to McDaniel during an April hearing.
The man who claims that he authored the “Mickey Finn” post lives in Oklahoma. He first heard of McDaniel, who posted to the operatorchan.org message board, after McDaniel allegedly wrote about hypothetical ways to deal with religious demonstrators after the man’s brother was killed in Afghanistan.
Two months after the “Mickey Finn” post, describing how a neighbor was drugged, raped, dismembered and cannibalized, was read during the initial bond hearing for McDaniel, a man who identified himself as Brandon Logan e-mailed Hogue. Hogue talked with him on the phone Monday night, and Logan offered to sign a document swearing that he wrote the Mickey Finn post.
In the e-mail to Hogue, Logan wrote, “Tell Mr. McDaniel that I’m sorry to have caused this trouble.”
Logan did not return a phone message from The Telegraph on Tuesday, but he said in an e-mail that he wrote the “Mickey Finn” post as a joke. He declined to comment further.
During the Tuesday court hearing, prosecutors and Hogue agreed that the post should be removed from consideration in the case.
District Attorney Greg Winters read the post during McDaniel’s April 3 hearing “with a good faith belief” that it was authored by McDaniel, according to a state motion filed Tuesday.
Malcor said during Tuesday’s hearing that the district attorney’s office received “preliminary information” April 16 that caused prosecutors to “question the authorship of the post.”
The next day, prosecutors told McDaniel’s attorneys that they were concerned about the validity of the post and told them they would receive a copy of the FBI’s report after it was received by prosecutors, she said.
Malcor said the district attorney’s office expects to receive the report Wednesday.
Prosecutors also filed a motion Tuesday morning to quash a subpoena requesting the testimony of prosecutor Garrison A. Wood in the case. Wood “is directly assisting in the prosecution of the case.” Prosecutors argued that the subpoena is “unreasonable and oppressive in that it seeks discovery of the work product of an attorney representing” the prosecution.
During the Tuesday hearing, Hogue said he wanted Wood to testify so the defense could show the post’s authorship was in question after it had been presented as “shocking and inflammatory” evidence to oppose McDaniel’s receiving a bond.
The judge said he didn’t consider the Internet post in deciding McDaniel’s bond.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.