December 17, 2014

Elyria
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29°F
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Prosecutors seek bond reductions for criminal defendants

ELYRIA — Speedy trial requirements have prompted prosecutors to seek bond reductions for 18 criminal defendants whose cases have not yet been presented to the Lorain County grand jury.

Among those who have been released on personal bonds are Robert Gauna, a 30-year-old Lorain man facing a rape charge from November, and Donald Cannon, who was arrested in November on drug trafficking and weapons charges while police were trying to combat a spike in heroin and fentanyl overdoses.

Cannon, 41, originally was being held in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond and a $100,480 personal bond — which is essentially a signature bond that allows a defendant to go free without actually posting any money.

County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi agreed to prosecutors’ request to convert Cannon’s bond into a $200,480 personal bond in a court order filed Dec. 30. Gauna’s bond was changed from $50,000 cash to $50,000 personal in an order filed the same day.

Not all of those who saw their bonds reduced have been released from the Lorain County Jail.

For instance, April Laster, a Michigan woman facing drug trafficking charges out of Oberlin Municipal Court and whose $75,000 cash bond was converted to a $75,000 personal bond, is being held at the request of Scioto County, according to jail records.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office sought the reduced bonds so that several defendants whose cases were facing time problems could be released until their cases can be considered by a grand jury.

Miraldi said that prosecutors have 90 days to bring cases to trial against incarcerated defendants unless they waive time. If a defendant is out of jail, however, prosecutors have 270 days to get the case in front of a jury.

Grand juries are typically empanelled for three-month terms and the most recent grand jury’s term ended the week before Christmas. Because grand juries typically meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which were government holidays last month, a new grand jury has not been selected or met since the middle of last month.

Will said the cold that closed the Lorain County Justice Center today will keep a new grand jury from being selected until Wednesday and it could be until next week when grand jurors will be able to hear a substantial number of cases.

Will said his office took the decision to reduce the bonds for the defendants, who face charges including domestic violence, theft, misuse of credit cards, felonious assault, robbery and kidnapping, seriously.

“It was cautious and circumspect,” Will said, adding that some defendants who were facing time problems in more serious cases weren’t released.

Miraldi said he typically agrees to prosecutors’ requests to lower bonds before cases are presented to a grand jury without asking for much in the way of an explanation. He said he thinks it’s usually because prosecutors think there are potential problems with a case or, as in this instance, because there’s a time problem.

“I relied on their recommendations in the past and never had a problem,” Miraldi said. “There is usually a pretty good reason.”

Will said it’s possible that the newly seated grand jury will need to meet extra days in order to catch up with the backlog of cases that need to be reviewed.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.