Jail Bait

Getting sprung from the slammer has never been easier, and the life of a Miami bail bondsman has never been tougher

Meanwhile, a group of Dade County Bail Bond Association officers met with Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher's chief of staff, Herb Clark, on August 7, 1992, in Tallahassee. "We wanted it cleaned up," says Don Sinclair, a former member of the board. "We wanted the hustling stopped." They also urged action on the Miami bail bond cases under investigation. Clark met again with the group of bondsmen after the Tallahassee meeting, when he was in South Florida following Hurricane Andrew.

Then on August 31, the Department of Insurance filed an administrative complaint against Viola, charging him with solicitation. "I was astounded," says attorney Levin, who immediately protested to Powell. "Even if [Viola] were guilty," Levin asserts, "this would be an incredible waste of time and money for an agency that has real problems to worry about. I really don't understand why they pursued this." Apart from the hours spent investigating and preparing the case -- over a year -- the state paid for a lawyer and an administrative judge to travel to Miami on two occasions for hearings on the matter, plus lodging, food and rental car expenses.

Richard Thornburg, the lawyer handling the case for the department of insurance, agrees that Viola's alleged crime was minor, "but it's still a violation and it should have been pursued." After the state's administrative judge, Linda Rigot, recommended that Viola's case be permanently dismissed, Thornburg filed what is called an exception, objecting to the recommendation and requesting a dismissal that would allow the case to be reopened at a later date. He argued that Rigot had not given him enough time to locate his missing witness and that the case could not be said to be definitively resolved. On July 19, Insurance Commissioner Gallagher agreed, and took the unusual step of overturning Rigot's recommendation. The case against Jim Viola remains open.

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