Judge makes right call on Oates' bond request

info@islandpacket.comAugust 1, 2013 

In this file photo, Preston Oates speaks with attorney Don Colongeli during his bond hearing before Judge Deadra Jefferson at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Jefferson denied Oates' request to remove his electronic monitoring device.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

A judge's decision to keep Preston Oates under electronic surveillance while he is out on bond on manslaughter charges was a good one.

Oates, who was arrested after a 2010 shooting that resulted in the death of Carlos Olivera, can work rather than sit in jail, and law enforcement and the community at large can have some assurance that he is abiding by the terms of his release.

In denying Oates' request to stop wearing the device, Judge Deadra L. Jefferson said the electronic monitor was an "appropriate mechanism (that) has been fashioned for both the client and the community."

Oates, a former tow truck driver, is charged with fatally shooting Olivera after an argument over a parking boot on Olivera's vehicle on Christmas Eve 2010.

He has been out of jail since Aug. 31, 2011, on a $200,000 bond. The original terms of his release included that he be confined to a relative's house in an undisclosed location, except to get medical treatment, appear in court or meet with his lawyers.

Given the volatility of this case in the community and Oates' behavior in jail, the terms were prudent.

But the Solicitor's Office said last year that Oates had not met the terms of his release based on information gathered by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office in an investigation launched after a fake dating website profile of Sheriff P.J. Tanner appeared online.

Oates' attorneys argued he should be free to work and travel while they appeal the charges against Oates.

The electronic monitoring was an appropriate response to both sides, especially given the delays in getting this case to trial.

Oates is appealing a March 2012 ruling that he is subject to prosecution. He had claimed self-defense under the state's "Castle Doctrine," which includes a business or vehicle as places where one could be granted immunity for defending yourself or others from harm. The Solicitor's Office maintains that any threat to Oates had ended by the time he shot Olivera.

The appeals process has taken far too long. The Attorney General's Office, which handles appeals for solicitors, only filed its final response to Oates' appeal in June.

Oates can ask again in 120 days to have the electronic monitor removed. It should stay until his case is resolved. The sooner that comes, the better for Oates and the victim's family.

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