Bail bond agents often call the victims of the Agent Orange weapons scandal, often for an initial $1 million bail.
But for victims like Maryanne St. John, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 1985 defoliation of her neighborhood, the first $1.5 million is the best deal.
“The first money, you think, it’s not that great,” she said.
“But it’s what you got.”
St. John had been charged with breaking into her house on the morning of August 1, 1985, with the intent to deface property.
She said she was scared but didn’t want to be arrested, so she walked down the street and picked up a hammer and smashed the doors of her house.
“I could see people going in,” she recalled.
“They were all trying to get inside.”
When the door was knocked, St. Johns grabbed a small screwdriver and began to work on the door.
The screws that she used to knock opened up and a hole was found in the wall.
When she turned the screwdriver over, she found a large hole in the ceiling.
She was arrested for vandalism and was sentenced for aggravated battery.
Her defense attorney said St. Jones would never have made it to prison had she not had the $1 billion bail bond.
St. Johns, now 80, is not sure if the bail bond was the right one for her.
“If you had a thousand dollars, you would get that,” she told Vice News.
“You would get the first, and if you got the second, you’d get the third.”
But in recent years, the number of bail bond agents has risen from 15 to 25, and some say that’s a sign that they can get victims out of jail.
In fact, one agency, Agents Orange Victims, has a new slogan: “Bail Bonds Are for Prisoners.”
But the agents said that while they can take victims’ pleas for help to court, they often don’t.
“A bail bond agent who doesn’t want a victim to get a lawyer is not going to be a lawyer,” Agent Orange Victims executive director John G. Baca told Vice.
“What we’re trying to do is get people out of trouble.
That’s why we have to get people to the courthouse.”
One reason is that the number and type of victims they take to court is dropping.
Agent Orange victims’ lawyers say that in the past, a large number of them were victims of other crimes, and there were many cases where they didn’t have enough evidence to go to trial.
“It’s not uncommon for victims to take our plea bargain program for granted,” Baca said.
The victims are more likely to plead guilty, and they usually receive a lighter sentence than defendants who don’t take their plea.
“Our hope is that they’ll understand that we’re not a bail bond agency,” he said.
Agent Orange Victims is a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting victims to court.
Its website says its mission is to protect the people who were exposed to Agent Orange and help them get off the streets.
“We do everything in our power to make sure that they get their money back,” Baciad said.
Baca said that the biggest difference between agents Orange Victims and other bail bonds companies is that agents Orange victims receive more than they did 10 years ago, when there were only about two dozen agencies.
Agents Orange victims are eligible for a $25,000 bail bond, and many get that.
Agents orange victims also receive some assistance with medical bills.
“It’s one of the things that makes our clients feel more comfortable,” he added.
Baciad told Vice that the only thing he’s concerned about is that “in this day and age, people are being held accountable.”
The money is not the only benefit.
“One of the reasons that we started the organization was to provide relief to people who have lost their homes or jobs,” Bacca said.
Agents of Orange Victims has a website, where they can help people get their property back or move out of harm’s way.
They also offer financial counseling.
But they also offer referrals for people who are experiencing homelessness, and Bacca told Vice there are cases where agents Orange are the only way out.
“For us, there are no other options,” he explained.