"What does a person do when you realize you've lost everything?" asks Michael Bailey. "And I did. I lost my vehicle, my house and my job," because he was held in custody for nearly two months on a warrant from another county he didn't know existed. Moreover, the charges against him were dismissed shortly after he was finally transferred to the proper court.
In all, Bailey spent 52 days in a Teller County jail because personnel from the Pueblo Sheriff's Office didn't bother to pick him up sooner. Last September, the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit over the matter that's now been settled, with both municipalities agreeing to make significant changes in the way they transfer prisoners between facilities. And while Bailey, who received an unspecified payment as part of the deal, is pleased with the outcome, he says he still wound up with a criminal conviction he would have fought if he hadn't already spent so long in limbo.
"I accepted a plea offer in Teller County because I figured if I pleaded guilty, it would get me to Pueblo quicker," he reveals. "But I still sat there for another eighteen days."
The Pueblo incident took place in 2011. "Me and my wife, we lived in East Pueblo," Bailey recalls. "We were arguing and a neighbor called the cops about us being loud. They ran our IDs, but I didn't go to jail then, and I never heard anything about this supposed warrant."
When Bailey finally saw the document, four years later, he was even more confused. For whatever reason, he says, "it didn't have a photo, it didn't have my actual birthday or even my right height and weight" — and by his estimate, its date was three weeks to a month off from his actual interaction with the police.
Bailey subsequently moved to Teller County, where he ran afoul of the law again. "I had an affair on my wife," he acknowledges. "I was dating this girl who was bisexual, and she beat up her girlfriend right in front of me. I called the cops and said, 'I want to report a DV [a domestic-violence offense].' But instead, those fuckers charged me with making a false police report and some other charges, and they told the girl to get a restraining order against me."
When he went to court over the matter, Bailey continues, "I won. But the mistake I made is that I texted the girl afterward and said, 'No hard feelings. Let's let bygones be bygones' — and a week later, I had two deputies at my house with a warrant for violating the restraining order. I went to jail over that."
This infraction kept Bailey on the radar of the local sheriff's department, and in September 2015, he came to deputies' attention again by way of another argument with his wife. "I had my three teenage sons saying I never laid hands on their mama," he insists. "But they tried to charge me with seven different counts, from DV to child neglect."
Once at the Teller County jail, the authorities discovered the Pueblo warrant, kicking off the start of Bailey's long wait for transport. For a time, he had a cellmate who was being taken back and forth to Pueblo regularly, he says, but somehow, he was never invited to join him on the ride. Indeed, he was in the jail for so long that he became something of a teaching tool.
"I had a visitor one time," he remembers, "and when they were taking me through the jail, I saw that my file was out. I looked at it, but I told myself, 'Don't ask about it.' But then the guard said, 'If you're wondering why your file is out, it's because we're using it as training.' And I thought, after all this shit, 52 days in jail without seeing a judge, and you guys are using me as training? If you're being graded, that's a big, fat zero."
When Bailey was finally taken to court in Pueblo, "the judge thought it was a bond hearing," he goes on. "He had no idea the case was four years old and that I hadn't been advised of my rights. He immediately released me on a PR [personal recognizance] bond. I had to go back to court two more times, and the first time, they offered me eighteen months' probation, but I turned it down. And the second time, they dismissed it."
By then, however, the damage was done. Bailey's divorce was finalized while he was in jail, and as a result, he lost custody of his children in addition to the aforementioned home, car and job.
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The initial contact between Bailey and the ACLU was over another matter entirely: "Teller County was sending out threatening letters saying, 'You owe money and if you don't pay this fine, there's going to be a warrant for your arrest and we're going to garnish your wages.' My buddy was freaking out, so I called the ACLU and asked, 'Can they legally do that?' And they said, 'No,' because they'd been working on those kinds of cases. But then I told them about what happened to me."
The ACLU notes that as part of the Bailey settlement, Pueblo and Teller counties agreed to "bring arrestees from either jurisdiction promptly before a judge for first appearance, including setting of bond...attempt to bring new arrestees before the county court for first appearance at the next court session after arrest...bring new arrestees before the court for first appearance within two 'court days,' which is defined as any day the county court is in session (currently Monday-Friday)." A consent decree also established that the terms of the pact "will be enforceable in federal court."
As for Bailey, he remains on probation after pleading guilty to the Teller County beef — he says local deputies still watch him like a hawk — and has completed anger-management classes. "I've got a new job and a new vehicle," he says. "I only get to see my kids nine hours a month. But I'm putting my life back together after everything that happened."