Chris Epps did not get a Get Out of Jail Free card. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate refused to release the former MDOC Commissioner from jail Friday. Judge Wingate revoked his bond in November after Epps was arrested for breaking into his former home and removing some light fixtures. Judge Wingate decreed:
This court, though, is not persuaded that Epps should be returned to pretrial release. Over the course of two days, November 3rd and November 4th, 2016, this court held a hearing in this matter, allowing live testimony from several witnesses while factoring in the arguments of counsel.
Epps’ criminal behavior on the late afternoon and night of October 27, 2016, is puzzling. Having entered a plea of guilty to the crime of conspiracy to knowingly conduct financial transactions affecting interstate commerce which involved the proceeds of bribery and kickbacks, and filing false tax returns in this court back on February 25, 2015, Epps was allowed to remain free on bond, while he continued to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (hereinafter referred to as “FBI”) and prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office. That cooperation, he hoped, would persuade the sentencing judge to view this cooperation as an aspect of leverage on the sentence. From February 25, 2015, to October 27, 2016, Epps was compliant with his bond conditions. ....
Then came the afternoon/night of October 27, 2016. Acutely aware that he was under the glare of bond supervision; that he knew he could not violate any of its terms and conditions, especially that which forbade him from committing any new crimes; he nevertheless did just that.
Under the emerging cloak of nightfall, he drove alone over to his old residence. He carried a flashlight, reflecting his recognition that the electricity would be off. He was aware that he no longer owned the house and had no legal right to enter. Earlier, the United States Marshals’ Service had notified him that after the date of May 9, 2016, he could no longer enter the house to claim or remove any items located therein.
The house was locked; the garage door was down. The house was posted with signs warning the public that the house was protected by the government and access was prohibited by “No Tresspassing”
The house had been sold. The new owner was scheduled to take physical possession the very next day. Indeed, it was he who discovered the trespass/burglary. When the new owner inspected the house the next day, he concluded that items were missing – the landscaping light system transformer; four (4) small landscaping lights; and one (1) large landscaping light. Thereafter, he contacted the authorities.
Epps admits that he entered the house that night; that he had no permission to do so; that he removed
the above-mentioned items from the house. To gain entrance Epps used his garage door code which raised the locked garage door just high enough for him to bend over and enter the garage. Epps says his actions were simply a lapse of judgment, that he harbored no criminal intent, just a compelling desire to retrieve some items he had forgotten to claim before May 9, 2016.
Neither that night, nor the following day did Epps advise the government of his actions. This, too, he claims as an oversight. He adds that had he been possessed of some criminal intent, he would not have exited his truck, crossed the street and engaged in conversation with a neighbor before he entered the house. This point is not persuasive. Another way of viewing this circumstance is that Epps came over to his former home in the late afternoon when he expected his neighbors to be inside their homes where they would not see him removing items from the house and that upon being observed by one of the neighbors, he had no choice but to engage that neighbor in conversation. Incidentally, he told the neighbor that he had a legal right to enter the house.
When Epps was arrested at this new house, the stolen items were found there. The prosecution contends that they were stored in a manner incompatible with expected imminent use, as opposed to Epps’ testimony that this sharp interest in re-claiming these items was borne of a desire to utilize them in a decoration scheme he and his wife were preparing immediately before he left the house to obtain these items.
As Epps was being arrested, he obtained from his home safe some money he contemplated he might need for posting of a bond: five-thousand dollars ($5,000). This court is not sure of the origin of this money,nor why Epps had to have this much cash on hand.
The facts of this violation persuade this court of the following: Epps knew his actions would be
violative of his bond conditions; that the timing of his trespass occurred the day before the new owner was to take physical possession of the house; that Epps made no effort before or after the trepass to inform the authorities of any need to enter the house; that this court cannot say how long Epps was in the house searching for or removing items; that upon his arrest, he was possessed of at least five-thousand dollars ($5,000), the origins of which are unknown to this court....
Kingfish note: So where did the money come from?