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State of New Jersey v. Sean Hammond

December 9, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SEAN HAMMOND, DEFENDANT, AND ABLE BAIL BONDS, L.L.C., AGENT OF ACCREDITED SURETY AND CASUALTY COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 09-01-01221.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 26, 2011

Before Judges Harris and Koblitz.

Defendant Sean Hammond was charged with criminal attempt to commit extortion, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1a(3) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5a, and terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3a. Able Bail Bonds,

L.L.C., agent of Accredited Surety & Casualty Company, Inc., (Able), posted a $40,000 bail bond for defendant on September 24, 2009. Defendant failed to appear on two separate occasions. After each failure to appear, bail was initially forfeited and an arrest warrant issued without notice to Able. On both occasions bail was later reinstated, again without notice to Able. When defendant did not appear for a third time, a warrant was again issued and bail forfeited. The court thereafter notified Able of the warrant and bail forfeiture.

Able subsequently moved for exoneration and discharge of the bond on the basis that the court failed to provide notice of the two prior non-appearances and bail bond reinstatements and notification of the third warrant was late. Able appeals the motion judge's August 18, 2010 order denying its application. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we remand for further fact-finding regarding the cause of the second reinstatement and for reconsideration of Able's application.

Defendant initially failed to appear in Morris County Superior Court for an early disposition conference (EDC) on October 13, 2009. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued and bail forfeited. Two days later, defendant appeared in court voluntarily, without having been contacted or pursued by law enforcement. He was wearing a hospital band on his wrist. Upon learning that defendant was hospitalized at the time of the scheduled conference, the court vacated the arrest warrant and reinstated bail with the prosecutor's consent. Able did not receive notice of defendant's failure to appear, the arrest warrant or the bail forfeiture, and therefore could not consent to the reinstatement of bail.

Defendant then failed to appear at the rescheduled EDC date of November 2, 2009. The court once again issued an arrest warrant and forfeited bail without notifying Able.

At the request of the Morris County Criminal Division Manager, the court vacated the arrest warrant and reinstated bail on January 11, 2010, for unspecified administrative reasons. Once again, Able did not consent to the bail reinstatement.

Defendant thereafter failed to appear on February 18, 2010, for a scheduled arraignment. The court issued an arrest warrant and ordered bail forfeited. Notice of bail forfeiture was generated on March 3, 2010. Able received this notice on March 8, 2010.

On May 31, 2010, Able filed a motion to exonerate pursuant to Rule 3:26-7. The motion judge found that George Pena, an owner of Able, acknowledged in his testimony that although Able had regular contact with defendant before November 18, 2009, it had no further contact with him until February 6, 2010, even though defendant was instructed to call Able every two weeks.*fn1

On February 6, an Able representative spoke directly to defendant and later sent him notice informing him of his February 18 court date.

Pena testified that Able hired three private investigators who developed evidence that defendant may have gone with a friend to China.*fn2 To our ...


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