Courts & Crime

Judges in Clemmons case defend bail decision

The idea is presumed innocence.

It's the guiding principle in criminal cases, and it applied to suspected cop-killer Maurice Clemmons this summer and fall. It's the reason he was able to bail out of jail on multiple charges of third-degree assault, malicious mischief and second-degree child rape.

Pierce County Superior Court judges, under fire for their decisions regarding Clemmons, say the bail decisions and amounts set for his release have been misstated in some media accounts, and in some cases misunderstood. Outside of capital cases, criminal defendants have the right to bail.

That's the way the law works.

"People want judges to follow the law," said Bryan Chushcoff, the county's presiding judge. "The state constitution says we have to set bail and we can't set all cash. We have to set reasonable bail. We have to allow bonds until there's been a conviction."

Chushcoff said the judges were considering a general statement on the issue, but remained wary of violating codes of judicial conduct regarding discussion of active cases. As of Tuesday evening, no statement had been released.

Records of Clemmons' spin through the courts reveal that he posted bail three times, for a total of $420,000 — in cash terms, that meant $42,000.

The first bond – $40,000 – was posted Sunday, May 10, by Aladdin Bail Bonds, after Clemmons had been arrested on multiple charges of third-degree assault and malicious mischief. During that incident, he punched a county sheriff's deputy in the face.

Clemmons used a process called "booking bail," which allowed him to post a bond on a weekend, without appearing before a judge.

The second bond was more complicated.

To read the complete article, visit

Related stories from McClatchy DC