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Indianapolis gave $150K to group that bailed out man accused of killing girlfriend

The Bail Project is among 26 groups awarded a taxpayer-funded violent crime-prevention grant
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Posted at 12:18 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 17:29:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Garvin was free on bail and wearing a GPS ankle bracelet when prosecutors say he stabbed his girlfriend to death on July 24.

Garvin was free thanks to money paid by The Bail Project, a national non-profit that has paid bails for 878 Marion County defendants since November 2018, a spokesman told WRTV.

The Bail Project gets some of its money from Indianapolis taxpayers.

The group was awarded a $100,000 grant in December and another $50,000 grant in September 2019 through the city's crime-prevention grant programs, according to the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

"I don't think taxpayers are going to be real hip to their money going to something like that," Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder told WRTV Friday.

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CICF President Brian Payne said the grant to The Bail Project supports services that reduce recidivism, not bail money.

"This is a tragic, tragic, horrible, horrible tragedy," Payne said Friday. "Our money was supporting wrap-around services to help them adjust and to successfully navigate their reentry into the community."

Mark Bode, a spokesman for Mayor Joe Hogsett, said the city entrusts the CICF to "select, monitor, and confirm" the grant recipients and ensure "there is transparency and accountability in the way these dollars are spent."

"Through this competitive grant process, funding was awarded to the Indianapolis chapter of the Bail Project exclusively for operations and services such as assessing client needs, arranging transportation, and connecting individuals with wrap-around services," Bode said. "City dollars were not directed towards paying direct cash bail for any individuals.

"Just as we invest unprecedented resources to combat violence,"Bode said, "the city is committed to identifying and correcting gaps in the criminal justice system that permit cycles of violence to continue.”

Angela Plank, public affairs manager for the Indianapolis City-County Council, said Holt's death "is a tragedy grieved by every member of this Council and our entire community."

"The Council remains deeply committed to working with all partners to break the cycle of violence and address its root causes in Indianapolis," Plank said.

On Saturday, City-County Councillor Paul M. Annee said "it might be time for an independent audit to be done - to assure taxpayer dollars aren’t funding these types of programs."

City leaders approved a measure that gave $2.2 million to fund the crime-fighting grants in 2021. The foundation administers the money and decides what groups get the money.

The Bail Project was among 26 groups awarded grants in December. Amounts ranged from $40,000 to $400,000.

"None of these funds went into our revolving bail fund," The Bail Project's National Director of Operations David Gaspar said in a statement emailed to WRTV. "It’s also important to note that a goal of our community-based model of pretrial support is to address the unmet needs that a person might have, be it housing, substance use, or mental health, which might be driving them into contact with the criminal legal system in the first place."

In many cases, Gaspar said addressing root causes through these services will prevent crime.

"It will not work every time as these social issues are complex, many people have severe needs, and human behavior is largely unpredictable," Gaspar said. "But the goal is to move away from an approach that sweeps people into jails and sends them back into society worse off. This approach clearly has not worked.”

In Garvin's case, the 33 year-old was charged Dec. 28 with battery after prosecutors say he stabbed a man at Circle K, 2080 N. Shadeland Ave.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Garvin was a clerk at the convenience store when he stabbed a customer in the parking lot following a dispute.

Surveillance video showed Garvin follow the customer outside and stab the man with a large knife, court documents said.

"Damn, that was satisfying," Garvin said when he returned to his cash register and dropped the knife on the counter, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Mark Howard wrote in an affidavit.

Garvin, records show, was charged with battery with a deadly weapon and battery causing serious bodily injury. The charges are Level 5 felonies that carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison if convicted.

Garvin's bond was initially set at $30,000.

Records show Marion Superior Court Judge Shatrese Flowers reduced Garvin's bond to $1,500 and ordered him on GPS monitoring on Jan. 11.

Garvin's bond was paid by The Bail Project on January 21 and he was released on January 22.

Marion Superior Court Judge Amy Jones, the county's presiding judge, said there are more than 2,700 people being supervised under the pre-trial release program, which includes 941` currently on GPS monitoring.

"The courts have discovered after a thorough review of individuals on pretrial GPS, that judges have not yet fully embraced the best practices of pretrial release," Jones said. "The alternative is not that judges are putting an individual on GPS in lieu of holding in the Marion County Jail, rather the individual is identified as a person who should be released or (have) a bond set with the ability to post and an added layer of oversight is added by using electronic monitoring.

"Judges continue to work through training and review of best practices to reduce disparities in the application of bond."

Jones said that a review of 2021 jail bookings found that about 42% of the people arrested for misdemeanors or low-level felonies have the charges dismissed within 72 hours.

Jones said 95% of the people on pre-trial release show up to their court hearings and 94% successfully complete pre-trial supervision with no new offenses.

Garvin's case, however, didn't fit that trend.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Garvin stabbed 30-year-old Christie Holt to death on July 24 at the Always Inn, 7410 E. 21st St., and tried to dismember her body in the bathtub.

On July 30, prosecutors say a witness saw Garvin at 4:48 a.m. dragging Holt's body wrapped in sheets and a comforter to a wooded area near the motel.

A doctor performing the autopsy found 51 stab wounds on Holt's body. Her lower left leg was nearly severed, the affidavit said.

Garvin told detectives that Holt had been seeing another man, the affidavit said. Garvin said he wanted to move out, but couldn't because he had no place else to live and his GPS monitor would soon run out of battery power.

"If he wasn't on the band (the GPS), it wouldn't even have been a problem. He would have just left," Detective Howard wrote in the affidavit supporting the murder charge.

"He misses her, still loves her, and he really didn't want to do it," Howard wrote. "He just felt like he had no other option."

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.