A bounty hunter has been indicted on numerous charges stemming from what witnesses allegedly told police was a high-speed chase through Keaukaha in September.
The six-count indictment dated Jan. 15 charges 43-year-old Benny William Gordon of Pahoa with first-degree criminal property damage, second-degree reckless endangering and two counts each of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The property damage charge is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, the drug and paraphernalia charges are both Class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison, and the reckless endangering charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
According to police Capt. Richard Sherlock, the charges stem from an incident on the afternoon of Sept. 4 involving “two vehicles speeding on Andrews Avenue.”
“The report is that one of the vehicles ran the other vehicle off the road,” Sherlock said Friday. “The pickup truck ran the other car, a Honda sedan, into a rock wall and further tried to pin it into the rock wall.
“At some point, the Honda got loose and drove to Baker Avenue, where it was run off the road again.”
Sherlock said responding officers determined that Gordon was driving the pickup truck and arrested him for reckless endangerment and criminal property damage.
Court documents filed by police state the pickup truck driven by Gordon rammed the Honda, driven by 36-year-old Raylad Brown of Hilo, three times.
The documents also say Gordon is employed as a fugitive recovery agent — also known as a skip tracer or bounty hunter — by 4Freedom Bail Bonds. Gordon allegedly told officers that Brown was wanted on a warrant.
According to a Sept. 28, 1997, article on Slate.com, bounty hunters, whose powers are derived from the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Taylor vs. Taintor, are afforded more latitude than police in their methods of apprehending fugitives.
“They do not need a warrant to search the residence of a skip, even a hotel room,” the article states. “Nor are they required to announce themselves before entering private property, as police officers must. Evidence obtained illegally by bounty hunters can be submitted in court. Like all police officers, bounty hunters are authorized to use ‘all reasonable force’ to apprehend skips.”
Sherlock said bounty hunters are not allowed to endanger the public to apprehend a fugitive.
“As to ramming, recklessly endangering anybody, and/or criminal property damage in this case, they’re not given that liberty. They’re definitely allowed to do their jobs within the confines of the law, which everybody else is assumed to follow,” he said. “We as police officers are not allowed to ram cars off the road or use vehicles in any type of intervention. That’s our policy.”
Sherlock said the drug and paraphernalia charges against Gordon were filed after he was searched at the Hilo police station.
“We do what is called an inventory search and we found two crystal glass pipes with white residue and initial tests done were presumptive positive for methamphetamine,” he said.
Gordon said Monday Brown “knew that he was wanted by the company I work for, 4Freedom Bail Bonds.”
“He saw me and he tried to evade me and run from me,” Gordon said. “I was following him. I wasn’t endangering nobody. I was just following at a distance. He ended up spinning out on one of the turns in Keaukaha and I tried to block him in so he didn’t endanger anybody else, obviously. He got away from that one and he decided to go and try to get away through the back road, which I tried to cut him off. He proceeded to come head on into me, so I decided to use my vehicle and stop him. I stopped right there in the middle (of the road) and he ran right into it.”
Gordon said Brown then fled on foot and Gordon chased him down and apprehended him.
“The bad part of this thing is that I confiscated his pipes and, unfortunately, when the cops came, I had the pipes on me,” he said. “I told the arresting officer, I forget his name, but I told him that they were his (Brown’s), but they didn’t care. … I’m trying to contest (police and prosecutors’ allegations) that the pipes were mine.”
According to court records, Brown has 18 convictions, including four felonies — burglary, theft, promotion of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Court records also indicate that Gordon has 26 convictions, nine for felonies, including theft, attempted theft, forgery, fraudulent use of a credit card, auto theft, escape and a firearms charge, but none for drugs. He is, however, facing a firearms charge and felony drug-related charges in another case, including attempted first-degree methamphetamine trafficking, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Those charges were brought by indictment on Nov. 21, 2012. Prosecutors also charged him with bail jumping by felony information complaint on Oct. 4, 2013.
Gordon called the charges “a personal vendetta to see me behind bars” by Jason Skier, a deputy prosecutor, and added that he doesn’t use meth. He described himself as “a public servant.”
“I’ve made mistakes in my life,” he said. “But I’ve committed the last two years to apprehending fugitives and that’s all that I do now. … I led a terrible life in the beginning, but I definitely have a higher purpose now.”
Skier did not return a Monday phone call seeking comment by press time.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.