Bonabond Inc., which supervises about 800 defendants released from the D.C. Superior Court prior to trial, was evicted from its I Street NW offices yesterday morning because the nonprofit organization owes more than $20,000 in rent.
By late afternoon, Bonabond director Waverly Yates said the organization had arranged for new quarters in an empty warehouse on Georgia Avenue NW that is leased by the city government.
Meanwhile, file cabinets, desks, chairs, artificial flowers, bulletin boards and other items cleaned out of Bonabond's offices were neatly stacked on the sidewalk outside the building at noon yesterday. A woman, who identified herself on ly as a Bonabond receptionist, sait on top of a cream-colored safe, eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich and watching over the articles.
At a hastily arranged court hearing late in the afternoon, Yates said he would arrange for Bonabond employes to stay with the property overnight - outside the building - until it could be moved to the Georgia Avenue address.
Bonabond, known as a "third-party custodian," is considered by Superior Court judges to be a middle ground for defendants between incarceration and unspervised personal recognizance pending trial. Bonabond clients must report several times a week to the agency and attend regular membership meetings. The purpose of such contact is to ensure that the defendant will appear in court when scheduled.
Without an office or telephones, there was some certainty in the courthouse yesterday about how Bonabond would keep in touch with its clients. When asked about he effect of the eviction, Yates said that "we hope our clients will function in this crisis as they would in any other crisis."
Judge George H. Goodrich, chairman of the court's committee on third-party custodians, said that he would recommend that judges not assign new clients to Bonabond until Bonabond can assure that court that is can maintain its contacts with defendants. Goodrich said he would make the recommendation to Chief Judge Harold H. Greene.
Since 1974, Bonabond has rented 3,023 square feet of office space at 425 I Street NW, Yates said. "Everytime we go through a funding crisis we fall behind" on the rent, said Yates, of the organization, which has a long and tangled history of financial difficulties.
Richard W. Luchs, on attorney who represents the firm that manages the I Street building, said Bonabond has owed rent - at $1,818 a month - since last May, and now owes a total of $20,868. Luchs said Bonabond has made some "very small payments" toward the debt.
Luchs said his client, Weaver Brothers Management of Washington, frequently has granted Bonabond extra time to pay the overdue money - particularly after Superior Court judges stressed the importance of the service that Bonabond provides.
Luchs contended that Bonabond has known, through various court proceedings, that the eviction was scheduled for yesterday, although Yates claimed to be stunned.
Sure it's a lot," Yates said of the rent owed, "but I'm sure that landlord is not hungry . ."
Bonabond, founded in 1966 by a group of ex-offenders, is now the largest third - party custodiam in operation at the SUperior Court. Funded in that past by grant's from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the United Planning organization and other private groups, the organizaiton recently has been the target of complaints about poor money management and has experience difficulty in securing financial backers.
Bonanond also has been unable to get the formal approval of Judge Goodrich's third-party custodian committee to operate in Superior Court, and now is working there under temporary certification. The custodian committee recently required that all such supervisory organizations be certified by the court.
Until that certification is complete, donors who once supported Bonabond have refused to commit any new funds to the organization.
"The effort to kill funds for Bonanond is no secret," said Yates, who repeatedly has blamed Bonabond's problems on some court officials who he has said want to eliminate Bonabond because they do not believe in the theory of third-party custodians.