January 15, 2010 in City

Prosecutor drops case against bail bondsman

‘Assumption’ in charges not correct, official says
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Attorney Tim Note, left, speaks to the media on behalf of his client Ryan Holmes, right, Thursday at his office in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

A bail bondsman once called “a threat to the administration of justice” by a prosecutor has been cleared of wrongdoing in a case his lawyer said amounted to little more than a “media circus.”

Ryan M. Holmes, 46, owner of Holmes Brothers Bail Bonds, was erroneously accused over the summer of forcing a customer to give him thousands of dollars. He was arrested in front of TV news crews last August at the Spokane County Courthouse.

But charges against Holmes and his bounty hunter, Brian D. Steenhard, 38, were dismissed this week after the prosecutor concluded they’d broken no laws. Meanwhile, Holmes lost his business and spent four months unemployed.

He still is trying to get his bondsman license reinstated and rebuild his reputation.

“I think he’s justifiably upset,” said his lawyer, Tim Note. “The allegations like this are made, people look at you differently. … This guy’s been a fixture at the courthouse for years.”

Holmes was arrested Aug. 5 after Robert Shawen, 70, said Holmes had forced him to withdraw $6,000 for a bond debt that police said the court had already reimbursed.

Instead, Holmes was collecting money owed to him for investigative costs, said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson. Shawen, who had posted bail for a friend charged with drunken driving, had signed a contract authorizing Holmes to do so, Johnson said.

“It reads like a pretty heinous crime” in the police affidavit, Johnson said. But “there was a fundamental assumption that turned out not to be correct.”

Shawen’s friend, Ryan Martineau, didn’t show up for court, so Holmes and Steenhard went looking for him, Note said. Shawen had signed a contract agreeing to pay $200 an hour for such recovery efforts.

“If you don’t want to take the risk of bonding someone out, you shouldn’t bond them out,” Note said. “I think it’s a case of buyer’s remorse on the part of Mr. Shawen.”

The total bill for finding Martineau was about $13,000, Note said. The men offered Shawen a deal by only requesting $6,000, Note said.

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 were dismissed Monday against Holmes.

Steenhard’s charges of first-degree theft and obtaining a signature by duress or deception also were dismissed.


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