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An apparent stare-down between a Toledo Municipal Court judge and a defendant does not justify locking the man behind bars, an appellate court panel ruled yesterday.
Shane Leu, 20, was released from the Lucas County jail yesterday, three days after his recognizance bonds were revoked and replaced with a total of $60,000 in bonds.
According to the decision of the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, Judge Robert Christiansen "abused [his] discretion" when he revoked Mr. Leu's original recognizance bonds.
The appellate court reinstated the original bonds and ordered Mr. Leu released.
Mr. Leu appeared in court Tuesday for a trial on three charges from an incident in 2006. According to court records, he was arrested in December and charged with one count each of domestic violence, assault, and child endangering.
For each count, he remained free on his own recognizance.
Mr. Leu's appearance in court Tuesday had been his third to face trial on the charges. Each time the alleged victim failed to show.
It was during a conversation Tuesday between Judge Christiansen and Mr. Leu's attorney, Ronnie Wingate, about the victim's failure to appear that the judge saw what he perceived as a threatening look from Mr. Leu.
According to a transcript of the hearing, the judge said that Mr. Leu was "attempting to stare me down." He then added, "That doesn't work. Bond is revoked. Bond will be reset to $20,000 each count."
Judge Christiansen could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a member of his staff said that he does not comment on pending cases.
Attorney Jeffrey Helmick, who along with Mr. Wingate argued the case before the appellate court, said that the main purpose of bond is to ensure that the defendant shows up for court.
He said Mr. Leu proved in the past that he would appear in court.
"The accusation made about the defendant's conduct that he was trying to stare him down, which, by the way, our contention is that it didn't happen that way - how does that impact him showing up for court? Our contention is that it doesn't," Mr. Helmick said.
Assistant County Prosecutor John Weglian, who argued the case before the appellate court yesterday, disagreed, saying that bond also ensures the safety of the community.
He said that the complete transcript of the hearing showed that something in Mr. Leu's behavior caught the judge's attention.
"The judge saw something in the defendant's behavior that prompted him to address the defendant in the middle of talking to Mr. Wingate," he said. "It just seems to me the judge was taking into account that the guy was charged in two violent offenses and he saw behavior that could potentially be dangerous."
Mr. Wingate declined comment on the ruling because the case is still pending, saying only that "the record speaks for itself."
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