Oates' whereabouts should not be in doubt

info@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2012 

One of two things should happen with Preston Oates given the questions raised about what he's been doing while out on bond.

Oates, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the December 2010 death of Carlos Olivera, should return to jail or the terms of his release should be tightened so that there is no doubt that he is abiding by those terms.

The technology exists to accurately monitor his whereabouts, and it should be used.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone has asked for his $200,000 bond to be revoked after a Beaufort County Sheriff's investigation into a fake profile on a dating website posted in the name of Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

Oates' cellphone records were looked at as a result of that investigation, and based on the dates and locations of the calls, officials say Oates has not remained under house arrest as required.

Oates' attorney, who said at a hearing Monday that he was not prepared to defend his client against the allegations, was granted a delay.

Since Aug. 31, 2011, Oates has been under house arrest in a location not publicly disclosed, but outside Beaufort County. He is required to be with a family member and is not allowed to leave the property unless he has a court appearance, an appointment with his lawyer or needs medical treatment. He also was ordered to stay away from the Olivera family.

But oversight was too lax under the circumstances. Oates was required to call into his bail bonding company once a week. Records of his check-in calls indicate Oates called from locations such as Chapin, Saluda, Waterloo, Hardeeville and Hilton Head Island, according to the Sheriff's Office investigation. Times and dates recorded in Oates' outgoing calls and the call-in sheet also did not match, the investigative report states.

Stone said in court Monday that Oates' bond was "unworkable," and he's right.

Oates was granted bond before an electronic-monitoring program was instituted in Beaufort County last January. Those under house arrest wear tracking anklets, and their activities are monitored by computer.

Before the monitoring program, Stone has said, he had a harder time proving offenders had broken the conditions of their bonds or sentencing. He had to rely on eye witnesses who were willing to come forward. Now, it's as easy as pulling up information on a computer screen.

Stone also said he didn't want electronic monitoring to be the domain of bail bondsmen, as it was before the new home-detention program. The monitoring is kept within the Solicitor's Office.

There's no reason Oates or anyone else released on bond and under house arrest can't be tracked.

Setting terms of a defendant's release is up to the judge. The tools are available to remove doubt about whether Oates s following the terms of his release.

They should be used.

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