Brian Woods Jr. found it impossible to leave his ex-girlfriend alone. As a result, he allegedly attacked her at Sowela Technical Community College on Feb. 23. According to witnesses, Woods, 24, choked her in a school parking lot. She freed herself from his grasp and ran toward the Sowela administrative offices. (Brad Puckett / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, May 07, 2012 11:07 AM
Brian Woods Jr. found it impossible to leave his ex-girlfriend alone. As a result, he allegedly attacked her at Sowela Technical Community College on Feb. 23.
According to witnesses, Woods, 24, choked her in a school parking lot. She freed herself from his grasp and ran toward the Sowela administrative offices.
Woods followed her in his car and ran over her as she approached the on-campus snack area. An employee heard the woman’s screams and rushed to her aid, pulling her inside the eating area as Woods tried to run over her again.
Blood from the victim was found against the building, and Woods vehicle left deep tire imprints in the grass surrounding the building where he attacked her.
The young woman was hospitalized.
Woods, who fled the scene, was arrested in Jennings and returned to Lake Charles. He was booked into the Calcasieu Correctional Center on charges of attempted second-degree murder and attempted second-degree kidnapping.
State Judge Clayton Davis set Woods’ bond at $400,000. Woods was indicted by a grand jury on those charges March 29. This
was not the first time Woods was arrested for attacking the woman.
Domestic abuse advocates and law enforcement officials believe the Woods case exemplifies a problem victims face when domestic abusers are able to get out of jail easily after posting a financially manageable bond.
Deputies with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Woods after he attacked the woman Feb. 10. At that time he was accused of choking her; at that time she was his girlfriend. She escaped and was able to get into her own vehicle.
The crime report said that during the ensuing pursuit, Woods used his vehicle to hit hers several times.
Woods turned himself in to authorities and was charged with domestic abuse and aggravated battery. State Judge Wilford Carter set his bond at $3,000.
Kathy Williams, executive director of the women’s shelter Oasis, said the Woods case is an example of what goes wrong many times when an abusive partner decides to settle matters their way. She fears the judicial system is not responsive to the plight of abuse victims due to what she characterizes as low bonds.
“I am not sure the judges know how serious it is. I think that you can get a lower bond for abusing somebody you know as it relates to picking a fight with a total stranger and ending up with a high bond,” she said. “My questions is, what would the judges do if their family member was a victim of domestic abuse?”
In Louisiana, the bail system is set up to ensure that defendants make scheduled court appearances. After being arrested, a suspect is processed into a prison facility. Before or after arrest — depending on if a long-term investigation occurred prior to the arrest and a warrant and bond were sought by investigators — a judge will read a report written by the arresting officer related to the suspect’s crime and determine the bond amount.
To be released from jail, with the promise of being present for court appearances, the suspect by law must post 10 percent of his or her bond.
The American Press spent several months researching the bond amounts set by 14th Judicial District judges in domestic abuse cases. Cases like Woods’ occur often and prompted the newspaper to investigate to determine if bonds involving domestic abuse are too low.
Bail records related to domestic abuse battery were obtained from the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. Bonds set by all seven judges from September 2011 to February 2012 were reviewed.
A total of 264 bonds were set for the charge of domestic abuse battery. That amount totaled $820,893. The average bond amount was $3,109.
Judge Carter set 78 bonds, the most during that period among the judges. His average bond was $1,450.
Judge Clayton Davis had the second-highest number of bonds set on those charges with 48. His average was $4,359.
Judge Robert Wyatt set the lowest number of bonds for domestic abuse battery with two, which averaged $500.
Judges can set bonds at their own discretion, even though an amendment was made to the state criminal code that mandates bond be set for anyone charged with domestic abuse.
State Rep. Mike Danahay introduced the bill doing so; it was signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 584 in 2010.
“The emphasis of the bill was to slow the process down. What was taking place is that law enforcement would go to a scene, make an arrest, bring the person to jail and start the booking process,” Danahay said.
“While that was happening they (arrested individuals) could get released on their own recognizance. In many cases, the person would return to the scene and create another disturbance and put the victim and law enforcement at risk.”
He sponsored the measure at the behest of local law enforcement officials. Danahay said the intent was not to take away a judge’s authority to set bonds
“We aren’t dictating that. The bond could be $1 or more. That’s on the judge, and we don’t want to handcuff them. But now a bond has to be set and a person may not be able to get the money they need and end up sitting in jail,” Danahay said.
“That gives time for the situation to be alleviated by the parties calming down or at least giving the victim a chance to leave or make whatever arrangements they need to.”
But with bonds being affordable for some, the proverbial “cooling off” period may not occur — and that worries local law enforcement leaders.
Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon supports a mandatory minimum bail set when a suspect is arrested twice on the same charge.
“I can think of one homicide in particular that was right before Christmas several years ago. The guy got out on a low bond and killed the lady right in front or her daughter,” he said. “Every case should be judged on its individual merit, but you have to take into consideration the amount of violence that occurred before an arrest.”
Dixon said incidents involving spouses and partners are difficult for police to sort through because of high levels of emotion displayed while the crisis is occurring. He said judges would not support minimum bonds after a second domestic abuse arrest.
“But any time you deal with violence of any kind, there is always the propensity that the suspect will get out and commit the crime again. That, to me, is when the hammer should come down on the second offense,” Dixon said.
Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso said the mental state of people who commit domestic abuse is hard to determine after they post bond.
“And there is no way for police or a judge to know. Our hope is that the judge reads the affidavit that goes with an arrest. You hope it helps protect someone,” he said.
Mancuso also said that if higher bonds were set, the judicial system would become even more “clogged” with cases.
“There have been efforts to pass mandatory bond amounts. But that would backlog the system. That is an argument that I understand. It is not a healthy situation, but it is our system. Judges have to make the decision,” he said.
Williams argues that a person arrested for domestic abuse should have to sit in jail at least 48 hours before a bond is set.
“Because some people get out in about 10 hours after being booked. They may still be mad. And probably madder when they get out so fast. With a couple of days in jail, they may get their senses,” she said.
The American Press contacted law enforcement officials in Rapides Parish to find out the average bond set on domestic abuse battery charges there.
Rapides officials said bonds depend on the circumstances involved in the arrest. Judges, as they do around the state, read police reports and set their bonds.
Posted By: brittany mouton On: 2/5/2013
@ Cory Ceasar, you say your not trying to justify him, but um that's my sister that he did that to, last time I checked, he's not God and has NO right to try to take a life!!!! And about his car?!?!? My sister used it to GET AWAY from his psycho a**. And for the truck, my sister HELPED him get it cause he couldn't on his own, and the 800$ he owes her anyways, he tore down her door to get to her, not to mention the physical and mental abuse!!!!! And for her first husband which obviously you know NOTHING about, she did NOT give no trouble, they just didn't work, they actually still remain friends to this day!!!! So please stop trying to speak down on my sister when you know NOTHING about her. She is the most loving respecting strongest person I know. And as for BJ you making it sound like she used him when its the other way around, she NEVER needed a man or his damn 800 dollars at that, she always been able to take care of herself. So please shut up unless you know both parties and you know NOTHING about her!!!!
Posted By: Cory S. Ceasar On: 6/29/2012
Title: TWO SIDES
I am a family member of brian woods its always two sides to a story. I am not saying what he did was right nor am I justifying what he did but there is always two sides to a story. Never in your article did I read about that was his car she was in the first time and she hit him she have a benz and its not even touched that was his honda and his truck involved and its the truck in which he was in that was pushed in from the back. Nor did i read about 800 dollars of his money that she refused to give to him. Nor did I read about her and the problems she gave her first husband. Like I said from the beginning I am not saying abuse is right nor am I justifying it but if you are going to tell a story tell the whole story not just one side.
Posted By: CJ On: 5/7/2012
how is your sister doing, I have wondered if she was recovering well.
Posted By: sheorie haig On: 5/7/2012
I'm srry about ur sister. I pray that he will get the max so he can not get out. Ee as wemen deserve better and when a men goes that far then god no longer has him and he don't deserve to be on streets. As for bonds I think the judges I think a set bond should be set for all who are arrested for domestic violence cause lord knows they need some kind of rule to fallow. Some judges go to extreme on some bonds and not enough for others crazy I say just crazy I pray god will have mercy on their souls when it comes to the end. God bless ur sister and all wemen who survive
Posted By: brittany mouton On: 5/6/2012
That's my sister that Brian James woods did that to. If you ask me I'd say anyone that goes to that extent deserves no bail because if they do happen to get out whose to say they won't try to finish them off. I love my sister more than anything she or anyone else does NOT deserve that.