Last December, Jonathan Harris was strangled to death during a robbery at his Silver Spring home. He had already survived two kidney transplants and had been profiled on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Three people were charged in Harris’ death. One of the suspects, Dion Sobotker, has been in jail for first-degree murder until last week when Montgomery County Judge Gary Bair let him out on bail.
But Sobotker is back behind bars as the judge revoked bail and is holding him without bond. The victim's family and friends are upset and want to know why he was out on the streets at all.
“My son needed to have his justice, and until they can prove that they did not murder Jonathan, they need to be retained,” said Harris’ mother, Patricia.
Surrounded by her friends and family, she criticized Judge Bair's decision last Wednesday to let the man accused of killing her son out on bail.
Darlene Simmons and Patricia Harris share a terrible bond. Simmons' son was murdered by a random act of violence 21 years ago.
“Well, he didn't have information – I don’t believe that, I really don’t,” said Simmons. “I know the court system and I know how careful our jurists are with regard to making sure they have the right information to make sure they make the right decisions.”
Once Sobotker was out of jail, he never went to the Southeast D.C. address where he was supposed to be staying. He also did not plug in the electronic monitoring device on his ankle, so it didn't work.
A law enforcement task force finally got Sobotker to turn himself in on Monday.
“This guy was let out because the judge said he didn't have all the information that he had today,” said Ann Everett, Harris’ cousin. “And by the way, there was no apology for what happened.”
In court on Tuesday, Judge Bair said that when he let Sobotker go free because he didn’t know then that Sobotker had already failed to appear a total of seven times at various other courts. The judge also said he didn’t know about Sobotker's prior criminal history.
But it's really not hard to find. If you just pull up the public page of the case records of the Maryland Judiciary, you can view Sobotker's long rap sheet, which includes convictions for a federal gun charge and embezzlement.
On Tuesday, Judge Bair had a change of heart. He said Sobotker is a flight risk and a danger to the community. He will now be held without bond until his trial in December.
Judge Bair let Sobotker go on what is called unsecured bond, which means he didn't have to put down a nickel.
“An unsecured bond -- I call it the sign and drive program -- you just give them your signature and say if you won’t show up, you’re going to pay them a sum of money,” said Mark Adams of the Maryland Bail Bondsmen Agents Association. “In this case, it was a half a million dollars. This man was unemployed. He had been laid off from a chicken wing franchise, so where he would come up with half a million dollars is unknown to me.”
It doesn't seem anyone is going to expect Sobotker to actually pay the half million dollar bond he owes the court.
The two others charged in this case are still behind bars.
Patricia Harris said she will be at every procedural hearing from now on to make sure nothing like this happens again.
We asked a court spokeswoman for a comment on Judge Bair's decision and reasoning, but she said that Maryland does not allow judges to comment on cases or the process.