Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Indian judge denies bail for second time


An Indian judge denied two Santa Barbara women bail for the second time yesterday and ordered the women to remain behind bars until their next court hearing.
The women, Monica Bond, 57, and Heather Bond, 37, were detained by Indian authorities on April 14 after they attempted to board a flight near Darjeeling, India, with a clip of 9 mm ammunition in a piece of luggage.

Lawrence Bond, Monica’s husband, said he received news of the judge’s ruling from a U.S. Embassy official at 4 a.m. yesterday.
The U.S. official told Bond the Indian prosecutor attended court for the first time and told the judge the prosecution was not opposed to bail.
Bond said the judge then went into his chambers for two hours and shortly after emerging, denied the motion for bail.
“We can only speculate on who the hell he had to call,” Lawrence Bond told the Daily Sound yesterday.
The judge first denied a bail request last Friday. The women’s attorney then filed an appeal, the result of which was yesterday’s hearing. The women’s next date in court is expected to be on May 2.
Lawrence Bond said he was told the attorney, Abhoy Pada Chatterjee, will appeal the decision with a higher court located in New Delhi, India in the coming days.
The mother, daughter duo had been traveling in India for a month before being detained. Lawrence Bond said they took the trip to scout out places to recommend to other travelers as part of a small travel agency Heather Bond planned to start when she returned to Santa Barbara.
Sean McGaughey, Heather Bond’s boyfriend, said the 9 mm clip and bullets belong to him and were left in the bag on accident. He said he carries weapons when camping in the backcountry surrounding Santa Barbara and has faxed his permit to Indian authorities.
But the puzzling thing to many following the case is how the ammunition made it through security undetected at four international airports, including LAX.
Lawrence Bond said it’s still not clear whether the women have been charged with a crime, but The Telegraph, a daily newspaper in Calcutta, India, reported on April 15 that the women are being held on ammunition-related charges under the Indian Arms Act. If convicted the women could face three to seven years in prison.
Lawrence Bond said he’s been in contact with U.S. State Department officials and hopes they’ll act fast.
Attempts to reach the State Department for comment were not immediately successful.
McGaughey said information about how to donate to a legal fund for the Bonds is at the Web site
Also at the site is copy of a letter written by Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez. McGaughey, who turned 39 on April 18, said the letter was sent to Indian officials prior to yesterday’s hearing. In the letter, Sanchez says the two women, as well as McGaughey and the rest of the family, “Have an honorable and law abiding standing here in the City of Santa Barbara.”
Sanchez goes on to say: “I know that you will treat this situation with sensitivity and professionalism in order to bring this unfortunate situation to a positive and happy conclusion for all concerned.”
McGaughey, who has slept little in the past week and has been picketing on State Street at night with a sign and pictures of the two women, said he’s anything but happy.
He said he’s not yet traveled to India because attorneys there have instructed him not to. Because the ammunition belongs to McGaughey, he said he could be detained and possibly forced to testify against his future mother-in-law and wife.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m at my wits end right now.”

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