Bail bondsman acquitted in shooting

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

o Jury agrees bail bondsman was acting in self-defense.
The wife, daughter and an employee of a Clovis bondsman accused of crimes against a suspected bail jumper linked hands outside the Curry County Courthouse and huddled shoulder to shoulder, relieved.

A jury found Clovis bail bondsman Hank Bayless not guilty Monday of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and breaking and entering.

The verdict was announced after more than four hours of deliberation and five days in trial, officials said.

“Every day, I worried,” said the daughter of Bayless, Rachel Bayless, flanked by her mother and her father’s employee, Christina Snell.
“I had to have faith in the fact that the judicial system vindicates the innocent,” said the bondsman’s daughter, 29, herself an attorney in Albuquerque.

If convicted, Bayless could have faced six years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines, according to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office.
“Hank would never do anything to hurt anyone,” said Bayless’ wife of 43 years, Dorothy, her face bathed by lights outside the Curry County courtroom. “His goal in life is to help people.”

Bayless did not linger long after the verdict was read.

He said he felt “relieved. A lot of peace. A lot of serenity.” He continued, “No fears. No apprehension.

“You never know how many friends you have,” he said, “until you get in a bad place. It’s been a hard year.”

Bayless was indicted almost a year ago by a grand jury on battery and assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering. Bayless shot Javier Sanchez, 34, of Clovis in the lower back in September 2005 while attempting to revoke Sanchez’ bond. Bayless also shot his employee Snell in the leg.

Bayless said he fired his gun in self-defense. Outside the courtroom Monday night, Snell said Bayless defended her against a violent Sanchez, who is currently an inmate at the Curry County Adult Detention Center.

“He saved my life,” said Snell, with tears in her eyes.

Snell continues to work for Bayless.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said he wanted a jury to decide Bayless’ fate because of conflicting testimony from eyewitnesses.

He said several expert witnesses called upon in the trial extended its length. Prosecuting Bayless was attorney John Nilan. Representing Bayless was attorney Michael Garrett of Clovis.

“Our job,” said Chandler, “is to seek the truth.”

“Mr. Nilan presented as many of the facts of the case as allowed under the rules of criminal procedure,” Chandler said. “The jury made a decision based on those facts, and we completely respect their decision.”

Bayless said Monday he plans to continue his career as a bail bondsman, “in the morning.”