News13 investigates: Revolving door in the legal system for people charged with violent crimes

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The two men accused in the kidnapping and murder of Zach Malinowski were both out on bond when they were arrested for other violent crimes.

Javon Gibbs and Christopher Brown had been arrested in early December of 2014 and were both charged with kidnapping and murder in connection to Malinowski.

A relative found the burnt remains of Malinowski’s car in the woods in September of 2013 and his body has still not been found.

Both men were granted a $50,000 bond in that case and were back out on the streets when police say they committed other crimes.

In November of last year, police said Brown shot a man in the leg at a Burger King.  He faces attempted murder, weapons and drug charges in that case.

On Thursday, Gibbs was arrested for another kidnapping and murder. Police say he killed Laquan Johnson in September at a home on Kimberly drive in Conway.

News13 spoke with the solicitor’s office on why the initial case wasn’t tried more quickly and what they can do to keep violent criminals in jail.

“Two years is about how long it takes to get to those cases, in the Zach Malinowski case, its complicated yet again by the judges recusal of our office,” said Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

An attorney for the defense previously worked at the 15th circuit defenders office.  A  judge decided the case would be moved to avoid the appearance of impropriety.  The South Carolina Attorney General’s office will now handle it, delaying the trial.

“It could be that the new charge is ready before the old charge,” said Solicitor Richardson.

Richardson said judges look at whether defendants are a flight risk, or a danger to society when granting bond and for murder that is generally $50,000 or more.

“But there’s no magic in that either, it’s whatever that particular judge believes will be enough to ensure the defendants presence when that case is called into trial,” said Solicitor Richardson.

Richardson believes higher bonds may reduce the amount of crime committed by people out of jail and facing charges, but it’s not always so simple.

“As difficult as may be sometimes, we all have to look at people who are there. They are innocent until proven guilty,” said Richardson.

Solicitor Richardson said the problem isn’t something new and he recently started sending prosecutors to bond hearings in some cases.

“We have sent them out there to ask for higher bonds on cases we believe that the people are a danger to the community but again all of that is up to the judge,” said Richardson.

Richardson said he started sending prosecutors out about two months ago, so requests were not made for Gibbs or Brown.

Gibbs is scheduled for a bond hearing on Friday morning, but will have to see a general sessions judge for bond to be set in the latest murder case.

Brown is currently still incarcerated at J Reuben Long Detention Center, after a judge set a $200,000 bond for his latest charges.