Bail lowered for Lewis-McChord soldier accused in hitman plot against ex-wife

The (Tacoma) News TribuneMarch 22, 2012 

An Army officer charged with making serious threats hoped to convince a Pierce County judge Tuesday to reduce his bail enough so he could get out of jail.

About all Lt. Col. Robert Underwood accomplished was getting his side of the story out.

Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz reduced Underwood’s bail by $50,000, but that still left the 46-year-old Steliacoom resident needing to come up with $200,000 – or a percentage acceptable to a bonding company – to get out while he awaits trial.

Judging from the reaction of his attorney, Philip Thornton, it seemed unlikely Underwood, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, would be able to raise that bail.

“That’s not helping us much, your honor,” Thornton complained after Stolz made her ruling.

The judge was unfazed.

Court Commissioner Meagan Foley originally set Underwood’s bail at $250,000 during his arraignment last week on three counts of felony harassment.

Prosecutors allege he threatened to hire a hit man to kill his estranged wife and commanding officer and that he also threatened to blow up the state Capitol in Olympia. Underwood and his wife are in the midst of an acrimonious divorce, court records show.

The court-appointed attorney representing Underwood at the arraignment did not argue bail at that time, reserving that right for the officer’s permanent lawyer. Thornton took the job last week and made a motion to have his client’s bail reduced.

The attorney argued Tuesday that $250,000 was excessive, given that Underwood faces a year in jail or less if convicted as charged. Thornton said the prosecution’s case is based on the statements of a “jilted lover” trying to get Underwood in trouble with his estranged wife, the Army and the law.

“He denies making any of those statements,” the defense attorney argued. “There’s no evidence that he has or will hurt anyone.”

Deputy prosecutor Neil Horibe told Stolz that Underwood has threatened to kill multiple people and certainly was capable of carrying out that threat. Horibe also said Underwood could flee if released, saying people in desperate situations often act out.

An Army investigator who attended the hearing also told the judge witnesses in the case against Underwood fear him.

“They think something will happen if he gets out,” said the investigator, whose name was inaudible when he gave it to the court reporter. Stolz said she wasn’t convinced Underwood was not a risk.

“It’s just all too common” that contentious divorces “explode into lethal violence,” she said.

So she trimmed the original bail amount by $50,000 and ordered that Underwood wear an electronic ankle monitor and be restricted to Lewis-McChord should he raise the cash.

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