Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #1:
The Angry Bail Bondsman

From 1989 until 1994, I had this really nice '89 Honda Prelude. It was the most reliable, well-built car I ever owned, which is saying a lot, because I have owned four Lexii. However, there were two problems with the car. One, it was slow. It had the biggest engine you could get in a Honda, but the automatic tranny made it a snail-mobile. Two, I couldn't take it out of my garage without someone getting mad and flipping me off. I guess it was the appearance of the car -- it was fire-engine red, with an aftermarket wing, tinted windows, custom wheels & tires, $3000 worth of stereo, and a license plate which bore my actual first name. Change lanes? Get flipped off. Merge into traffic? Get flipped off. Run a yellow light? Get flipped off. It became tiresome.

Anyway, one day in 1991, I was driving to work. I was patiently waiting for my turn to use the on-ramp when some type-A jerk in a gold Mercedes sedan decides HE'S not going to wait, he needs to cut into the line NOW, and furthermore, I'm the guy who's going to let him in line in front of me. Sorry, Charlie, no such luck. The guy behind me lets him cut in though, so now the guy is PISSED and he's behind me. Once on the freeway, I change to the left lane, and Mr. Dickhead in the Merc has already changed lanes and is RIGHT BEHIND ME and now he's really pissed because of course I pulled into the left lane right in front of him, winning our little race in a cheesy Honda although he's got Teutonic iron that I am supposed to respect and even be intimidated by.

So this moron FOLLOWS ME ALL THE WAY TO WORK. Once I park, he pops out of his Merc. The guy is big, and in his forties. He stands over top of my car as I climb out, briefcase in hand. I figure the guy is going to take a swing at me, but no! He decides to joust with me verbally. Heh. As you might expect, everything he says gets shoved right back in his face with an offensively flippant remark as I walk to the little shop where I still work to this day. Finally realizing that I am not intimidated, he heads back for his car, but before climbing in, he makes some derogatory schoolyard remark about my nose (!) that I haven't heard since the 10th grade (remember this guy is in his FORTIES). As I open the door to the shop and step inside, I say "Wah! Sore loser."

So NOW the asshole is REALLY PISSED. He walks into the shop, asks if I'm the owner. No. He wants to talk to the owner. By now, Fred (the boss) is already coming out of his office. Mr. Dickhead tries to convince Fred that I am a reckless driver, but Fred responds by telling the guy to get the fuck out of here. The guy calls Fred a few choice names and leaves, madder than ever. Fred and I have a good laugh over it, recalling that the guy (for whatever reason) told Fred that he is "in the bail bonds business" during the course of their argument. So we look up "bail bonds" in the phone book and sure enough, the guy's name (Jim French) and picture are all over the yellow pages! Turns out he owns the biggest bail bonds business in the town I live in, and has about 3 or 4 solid pages of ads in the phone book! We laugh our asses off at this.

Then, a few months later, in the local paper:

James Robert French, 47, of 8708 N.W. Lakecrest Ave., is to appear for arraignment this morning for SEVEN COUNTS OF CHILD MOLESTATION/CHILD RAPE and is wanted in California for another two charges of sexual assault. The alleged victims in both Washington and California are close relatives. French, who owns Clark County Bail Bonds, allegedly assaulted the victim over a five-year period.

I sure hope he can find some bail bonds.

ADDENDUM:

The following article appeared in the Portland, Oregon Oregonian on November 17, 1995:

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A fugitive warrant has been issued for James R. French, who was convicted Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court of sexually abusing his stepdaughter.
He was found guilty of two counts of first-degree rape of a child and three counts of second-degree rape of a child. The abuse began when the girl was 8. She now is 16.
French, 47, had been free on bail pending sentencing, which had been scheduled for Thursday. He owns Clark County Bail Bonds and similar businesses in six other states.
Rod Frederiksen, Vancouver police chief, said sources told authorities that French was headed to Mexico or Arizona. He reportedly was traveling alone. French is described as 6 feet 6 inches, 250 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. He may be driving a white Land Rover, a gold Mercedes or a 1995 Mitsubishi Quest minivan.

A later report mentioned that he always carries a gun.

Jim French. What an asshole!
This is Jim French. If you see him, call the police.

UPDATE!

October 15, 2003 - Jim French captured in Mazatlan, Mexico

This asshole was finally caught after eight years in Mexico. Note the following paragraph that appeared in the Vancouver, WA Columbian on October 15, 2003:

"Clark County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Trimble said acquaintances of French's in Mexico grew suspicious of French -- Trimble didn't know why -- and started checking into his background. They traced French back to Clark County and alerted both the sheriff's office and the Vancouver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

A couple of months ago, a reader wrote me to ask if Unspeakably Stupid Story #1, The Angry Bail Bondsman, was really true. She had tried to find out more about Jim French by looking up his name (James R. French) on the search engines, and came up with nothing. I tried it myself, and sure enough, the case was so old that there was virtually nothing about him anywhere on the Web -- except this page right here, which has always included the attractive mug shot above.

I am wondering if this website helped his acquaintances in Mexico trace him back to Clark County and the fact that he was on the lam.

THAT would be sweet.

Think of me when your new roommate is making sweet love to your hiney, Jim! And let's take it easy on the road rage next time, assuming you can still get a license when you're 80 years old.

UPDATE #2

From The Oregonian, December 23, 2004

Fugitive child rapist set to return

VANCOUVER -- A convicted Clark County child rapist who jumped bail and disappeared nine years ago is expected to return today from Mexico.

James Robert French, 57, is scheduled to arrive at Portland International Airport on a commercial flight from Mexico City and Houston in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sources close to the case who asked not to be identified said Wednesday. He spent more than a year in a Mexico City jail fighting extradition to the United States.

He will be held in the Clark County Jail.

"We know he'll need protective custody because he's a sex offender," said Joe Dunegan, jail chief for the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

French, a former bail-bond company owner, likely will appear Monday in Superior Court on an accusation of bail jumping, sources said. A new sentencing date for the 1995 conviction could be set.

Jumping bail is a class B felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

French was arrested on federal fugitive warrants in October 2003 in Mazatlan, where he was using the name Richard Black and operating a currency-exchange business.

In November 1995, a Clark County Superior Court jury convicted French of two counts of first-degree rape of a child, three counts of second-degree rape of a child and one count of first-degree child molestation. The abuse began when the victim was 8 and continued for five years.

French faced as long as 23 years in prison, and his sentencing was set for three days later.

Judge Roger A. Bennett allowed French out on $75,000 bail to complete personal business, believing his ties to the community would ensure his appearance for sentencing. French, who had a 15-year-old son, surrendered his passport and promised to deliver a property bond for his Lakeshore Hills home.

When he failed to show up for sentencing, Bennett issued an arrest warrant.

"I've never had anybody with the local ties and assets that he has split," Bennett said at the time.

French apparently was closing a deal to sell his company during the trial. He sold his interest in Pioneer Bail Bonds Inc., the holding corporation for Clark County Bail Bonds and other bail-bonding operations he started in California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Michigan and Ohio.

The business made French wealthy. A November 1992 financial statement showed he had a net worth of more than $1.4 million. His former wife testified that he kept $350,000 to $500,000 in an easily accessible bail fund.

French, however, likely will not be fined in connection with his 1995 conviction. State law provides for a fine of as much as $50,000 for each count, but in an October letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bennett said he won't impose a fine.

"For purposes of accomplishing this extradition, I will commit to imposing no fine against Mr. French in this case," Bennett wrote.

Bennett has since removed himself from the case and it has been reassigned to Judge Edwin L. Poyfair.

UPDATE #3

From The Oregonian, May 20, 2005

Bondsman draws term of 16 years for abuse

James French is sentenced to prison nearly a decade after he fled to Mexico to avoid charges of abusing a girl for five years

WENDY OWEN

VANCOUVER-- More than nine years after a jury found him guilty of child rape and molestation, former Vancouver bail bondsman James French heads to prison today.

Equating French to "just this side of one who would commit murder," Superior Court Judge Edwin Poyfair on Thursday sentenced him to 16 years in prison.

A jury found French guilty in 1995 of two counts of first-degree rape of a child, three counts of second-degree rape of a child and one count of first-degree child molestation. The abuse began when the victim was 8 years old and continued for five years.

French, who at the time was a wealthy bail-bond business owner living in the Felida area, was out of jail on $75,000 bond when he fled to Mexico.

He spent about eight years there going by the name Richard Black and running a currency-exchange business until Mexican authorities arrested him on federal fugitive warrants.

He was held for 16 months in a Mexico City jail while he fought extradition to the United States. Federal agents returned French to Vancouver in December.

French's attorney, Sheryl McCloud of Seattle, asked for a more lenient sentence, saying it could be the difference between punishment and a death sentence for her ailing client.

"I ask this court to consider . . . a man who at age 57 is in deteriorating health physically and mentally, who has a complete background, not just a criminal background."

She did not elaborate on his condition.

McCloud also pointed to letters of support from friends and family, and referred to two of French's adult children in the courtroom who still "stand by him," she said.

Shackled at the ankles with five custody officers watching him, French, who consistently has maintained his innocence, stood and apologized.

"I am sorry," he said, in a quiet, shaky voice. "I am sorry."

Poyfair, however, was not lenient. Given the option of between 149 and 198 months, he gave French 192, with credit for his nearly two years served in Mexico and the United States.

"You have taken away a lot from this child, now a young lady," Poyfair said. "You have caused great scarring . . . for your whole family. This court cannot give the least bit of tolerance."

The sentence options could have been longer, but Mexico, as part of its agreement to extradite French to the United States, said he could not be punished for bail jumping.

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