Judge, lawyers to blame for convict’s ‘mistaken release’

Posted at 2:18 PM, Feb 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-27 18:49:25-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) --  The man mistakenly released from the Richmond City Jail is now back in custody. Evan Charles Kelsey turned himself to the Richmond Sheriff's Department Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Marshal's Office confirmed.

"Kelsey surrendered shortly after Sheriff’s deputies, working with members of the community, were able to locate where Kelsey had been staying since his release," Richmond City Sheriff's Office spokesman Major Jerry Baldwin said. "He reported with members of his family, and hugged and kissed them goodbye before surrendering to Lt. Col. Clarence Woody, III and Captain David Jackson."

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring said oversight fell on lawyers and the judge.

"It's normally the sort of thing that is caught because either the judge, the prosecutor... or even the defense lawyers says, "What's the defendant's status going to be pending sentencing,'" Herring said.

Kelsey contacted police after his release asking for his cell phone and that is when police alerted prosecutors, according to Herring.

"It dawned on the detective that something wasn't right... and the detective notified the prosecutor, who realized that something had gone horribly wrong and that person took steps to correct it," Herring said.

As a result, prosecutors issued a motion to revoke Kelsey's bond and arrest him.

Herring admitted that the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office dropped the ball on the case and needed to circle back and make sure he was going to be held pending sentencing.

Since that never happened, the sheriff's office followed the court's order and released Kelsey.

However, Herring said that Kelsey was never a threat to the public and that the witnesses and the victims involved in the case were not in danger since the trial was narcotics-related and they were incarcerated.

Herring said the ordeal was a lesson for prosecutors.

"I could've made this mistake. And so, at the end of a case, even if it's at night, one of the things that we need to do before we walk out of the courtroom is to make sure that the court has addressed bond," said Herring.

Kelsey, who was convicted of attempted murder in Richmond last month with a jury recommended 10-year prison sentence, was released from custody last week due to a clerical error.

While official sentencing was scheduled for April, prosecutors nolle prossed other charges Kelsey faced in which he was denied bond.

As a result, court documents showed Kelsey was released from jail  Feb. 19 because “jail records did not reflect the charges of which the jury convicted defendant.”

CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone said it is standard practice for a judge to revoke bond when a jury finds someone guilty and sentences them.

Stone said in this case it appeared bond was never revoked. Accordingly, the sheriff’s office followed the court’s order.

“If the bond was not revoked and the defendant was on a PR bond then they must let them go,” Stone said. “In fact they can not keep them if they are ‘released on a PR bond’ on paper.”