August 6, 2009 in City, News

Bail bondsman faces theft charges

By The Spokesman-Review

The prosecution calls him “a threat to the administration of justice.” His lawyer says he’s the victim of a civil dispute turned media circus.

Whatever the case, the legal problems for a Spokane bail bondsman accused of forcing a customer to give him thousands of dollars are only beginning.

Ryan M. Holmes, 46, owner of Holmes Brothers Bail Bonds, appeared Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court via video, one day after he was handcuffed and led out of the courthouse on theft charges related to a debt collection police say went too far.

It was authorities who went too far, said Holmes’s lawyer, Timothy Note, criticizing what he described as a courthouse arrest staged for the benefit of TV news crews.

“It’s one thing for the court to be complicit in a media circus,” Note said. “It’s another thing to be an active participant.”

Holmes is accused of forcing a 70-year-old man to withdraw $6,000 to pay a bond debt. But police say the court had already reimbursed Holmes for that bond and he had no business trying to get more money from the man.

“It looks like a case of greed,” said Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson.

Johnson requested $100,000 bond for Holmes and said he’s been in contact with another possible victim.

“Apparently this is not an isolated event for Mr. Holmes,” Johnson said.

Note called the bond request “ridiculous” and Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set it at $20,000 after Holmes appeared on charges of first-degree theft, attempted first-degree theft, first-degree identity theft, obtaining a signature by duress or deception and offering a false instrument for filing or record.

His bounty hunter, Brian D. Steenhard, 38, faces similar charges and is expected to turn himself in this week, Johnson said. Holmes posted bond Thursday night.

The case began when Robert J. Shawen paid Holmes $700 to get a friend from church out of jail on a drunken driving charge, according to court documents.

When the friend failed to show up for court, sheriff’s deputies arrested him, but Holmes told the court he’d apprehended the man with the help of deputies when he filled out the form that reimbursed him the entire $7,500 bond, Johnson said.

That led to the charge of offering false instrument for filing or record.

But Holmes’ most serious charges stem from when police say he and Steenhard showed up at Shawen’s home June 22 and demanded $6,000 reimbursement for the bond.

The two followed Shawen to his credit union, where he paid them the money.

“He felt he had no choice,” Johnson said.

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies told Shawen the case was a civil matter, according to the affidavit. He filed a police report July 13, the same day he said Holmes threatened him if he took the case to court.

Holmes has been suspended from writing bonds by the State Department of Licensing.

That same department investigated claims by the newest alleged victim, Note said, and found nothing to substantiate them.

“This is a civil matter run amok,” Note said.

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