A Montgomery County judge ruled to increase the bail amount set for the alleged gunman in the Bama Lanes shooting, but landed far from the $2 million requested by prosecutors.
District Judge Tiffany McCord announced her ruling, raising Tory Johnson's bail to $860,000, privately to the defense attorneys and prosecutors before filing the document Thursday after an hour long hearing.
“Much has been said and much has been done, but justice is not political,” McCord said to the victims and family members in attendance, before she dismissed them from the hearing. “Some of you may agree with my ruling, others may not. Regardless what the decision is, the answer is not more violence.”
Johnson was taken for holding by Montgomery County Sheriff's deputies before McCord issued her ruling, and immediately under custody again upon the filing.
Johnson, 23, was charged with murder, two counts of first-degree assault and four counts of second-degree assault after 21-year-old Jeffrey Reed was killed and six others shot at Bama Lanes on Atlanta Highway on Sunday morning.
Johnson's bail was initially set at the maximum allowed for a magistrate to issue - $270,000. He posted bail hours after his arrest, sparking outcry from the community
District Attorney Daryl Bailey filed a motion Monday requesting that bail for Johnson be increased from the initial amount, which he characterized as "woefully inadequate," to $2 million.
The decision to raise or keep Johnson’s bail would not be an easy one for McCord. The arguments for and against heavily relied on previous court rulings and the legal precedent set forth.
Glenn Langner, representing Johnson, argued his client’s bail could not be raised for two reasons — that he must be in custody to modify bail or the state must provide evidence that there was a breach of his conditions for release. Neither of those are true in this case, he said.
He also argue the state’s motion to increase bail was unconstitutional based upon a former Bibb County case. The Alabama Supreme Court in that case ruled a circuit court could not increase bail over the district court’s ruling.
Ben McGough, with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, in response argued the rules Langner cited do not preclude McCord from modifying bail in this instance.
In reference to the Bibb County case, McGough said the two cases are separate in that no bail has yet been set by a court Johnson is required to appear before, only the municipal magistrate.
“The magistrate is limited under Rule 18 to the bail schedule,” McGough said. “While the schedule is a recommendation, your honor can go above that.”
Police and the District Attorney’s office asked for the maximum bail that was appropriate for the amount of facts they had, McGough said. That has since changed, making the bail increase appropriate, he said.
“They could have made it cash, which would have had the same impact,” McCord proffered.
“Yes they could have made it a cash bond,” he capitulated.
McCord, in doing her own research on the topic, said she found instances where they’d cited the Bibb County case, but they all centered around a circuit court ruling, not a district court ruling.
“If there was a case that supported these circumstances, we would have found it,” McGough said.
During the hearing, Montgomery Police Detective L.J. Thomas testified that Johnson told police he fired his gun, but only after he thought one of the victims took “a tactical stance.”
“He said he knew what that was because he said he’s had military training,” Thomas said.
An audible groan escaped from several of the people in the audience. Reed’s mother let out a cry, before being escorted out of the courtroom to collect herself.
Thomas testified that Johnson told police he was at the bowling alley with friends, when a couple girls got into an argument with one of his friends “because they were looking at her.”
“One swung on her. Johnson stepped up and pushed her back,” Thomas testified.
On video taken during the event, one of the victims, Markarious Watson can be seen and heard telling Johnson “don’t do that.”
“Mr. Johnson told investigators that he flashed his weapon, then pulled it out and fired because the man was still walking up to him,” Thomas said.
Investigators recovered six shell casings, the same number of gunshots heard in the video.
“He said after that he ran into a neighborhood and called his brother to come pick him up,” Thomas testified. “By the time his brother arrived, he didn’t have the gun anymore. He thought it fell out somewhere in the neighborhood.”
Police canvassed the neighborhood but never recovered the pistol.
Later, dispatch received a call from Johnson’s mother, wanting to turn her son in, Thomas said. Officers picked him up at his home and took him in for questioning without incident.
In her ruling, McCord noted that Thomas was unaware she could have sought out a higher bail for Johnson from the beginning.
"The case agent mistakenly believed that the only bond available was the top end of the bond schedule and was unfamiliar with the process to get a judge to raise the bond above the bond schedule," McCord wrote. "After conferring with the District Attorney's Office, the case agent was told that the bond could be raised later by a judge."
McCord ultimately ruled that it is within the confines of the law for her to raise Johnson's bail despite him being free.
"Additionally this court finds that the Defendant is a flight risk based upon him fleeing from the scene after allegedly committing the act. This court also finds that the Defendant is a danger to the community," she wrote.
The bail amounts were raised from:
$150,000 to $500,000 in the murder charge
$30,000 to $120,000 for each first-degree assault charge
$15,000 to $30,000 for each second-degree assault charge.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Kirsten Fiscus at 334-318-1798 or KFiscus@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @KDFiscus
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Bama Lanes Shooting: Judge raises bail from $270k to $860k