Montana judge lowers bail believed to be set based on race

Montana judge lowers bail believed to be set based on race

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BOZEMAN — A judge has reduced bail to $25,000 for a Florida man arrested last month in connection to multiple thefts in Montana. Protesters and attorneys had argued the initial $500,000 bail was excessive and based on race.

Joshua David Blair, a black man, was charged with multiple felonies including conspiracy to commit theft, criminal mischief and tampering with evidence, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Blair was one of four people arrested after a series of car break-ins that have been tied to a Florida-based crime ring, authorities said.

Blair, 22, appeared in Gallatin County District Court on Wednesday before Judge John Brown with his attorney Elizabeth Musick. Gallatin County Justice of the Peace Bryan Adams originally set bail May 4 for all four co-defendants after hearing arguments from the attorney's office.

Justice court typically sets high bail amounts that can be lowered when a matter is turned over to the district court.

The high bail amount was "excessive and oppressive," Musick said, adding that Blair doesn't have a criminal history, and that the bail didn't reflect the facts of the case. She also pointed out other cases with defendants accused of more serious charges where lesser bail was received.

"It just doesn't add up, your honor," Musick said. "This is not an appropriate case for a $500,000 bond."

An advocacy group Bozeman United for Racial Justice also rallied against the bail amount.

"Joshua's incarceration and the absurd, half-a-million dollar bond separating him from freedom and his family lay bare the racist inequalities that define America," the group said in a release, adding that Blair missed the birth of his child because of his incarceration.

Brown agreed with Musick saying the alleged violations don't deserve the high bail but denied allegations that it was set on the basis of race.

"Before I go through and issue the conditional release order, just for the record, I will tell you that this court does not set bail, Ms. Musick, on the basis of race," Brown said.

Bail was also set at $500,000 for each of the other three people arrested. They have each asked for a reduced bail.

All four have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been held at the Gallatin County jail since May.

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