Howard White has made bond.
White’s attorney, Sean Devereux of Buncombe County, appeared in Haywood County Superior Court Thursday afternoon without his client by his side but brought with him the owner of the Asheville-based firm providing White’s bond.
White has been held in Haywood County for over a year now after being charged with a litany of felonies related to the alleged sexual abuse of multiple children spanning almost two decades.
Charges include first-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible sex offense and indecent liberties with a child.
White lived in Haywood County from 1984-2006, during which he acted as the rector for Waynesville’s Grace Church in the Mountains. Prior to returning to Haywood to face his pending charges here, he was being held at a county correctional facility in Boston after pleading guilty to five counts of assault and battery related to the 1973 sexual abuse of a boy.
Once White is released, he will be monitored by a satellite tracking company out of South Carolina called Max-Track, which provides “defendant monitoring services," via satellite technology.
In May 2018, when White was brought to Haywood after serving his term in Massachusetts and after two more victims came forward, White’s bond was raised from the $660,000 amount set by the magistrate to $1.6 million. However, on Nov. 17, 2018, that bond was lowered to $800,000.
Providing White’s bond, in conjunction with Palmetto Surety Corporation out of Charleston, South Carolina, is KC’s 24/7 bonding out of Asheville. Present at the hearing was the company’s owner, Elicia Ward.
Ward said the device being used to track White will set off an alarm if the battery drops below 50 percent, if he leaves the assigned area or if the device is tampered with.
“If you even try, it’ll send an alert that someone’s tampering with it,” she said.
“They’re tracking him 24 hours a day,” she added.
Devereux noted that the agency employs “a Dog the Bounty Hunter-type guy,” who can track down anyone who tries flee beyond their assigned area. Ward admitted that such an individual is used somewhat frequently.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones expressed concerns that while the company will be able to track White via satellite, there is no way to prevent him from being around children.
Ward agreed that the only way to stop him from reaching children would be to confine him to wherever he’s living. However, the condition of White's bond are not that restrictive, and limit him to Haywood and Buncombe counties.
“And there wouldn't really be a way to stop kids from being brought to him,” she said.
To make the bond, White had to put up a sizable amount of assets. Ward testified that, along with signing a promissory note, he put up a money market worth over $250,000 and his Pennsylvania home worth around $300,000. Ward said she felt confident about the investment and told Letts that her company has ample reason to ensure he abides by the conditions of his release.
“We’re putting up the $800,000, and we want to make sure we can keep track of him, too,” she said.
Letts specified the terms of his release, noting that he can’t go “near any playgrounds, arcades, schools” or anywhere else there might be children.
In addition, he will have to surrender his passport, and the District Attorney’s office must receive a report on White’s status every 24 hours. While out on bond, White will live at an extended stay facility in Buncombe County, from which he will travel to Haywood for court appearances.
Letts also pushed both Jones and Devereux to get the case before a jury sooner rather than later and set a trial date for Oct. 21.
“That gives y’all more than enough time,” he said.
Following the hearing, Devereux said he expects White to be released either sometime today or tomorrow, and he wanted to remind people that bonds aren't meant to punish people.
“The purpose of bond is to ensure a defendant shows up for court or they’re not a danger to the community,” he said.
“He’s certainly not a flight risk,” Devereux added. “He had court dates in Massachusetts, and he was never even late.”
While there had been some discussion between the state and the defense about setting the trial for November or December, Devereux was confident he could prepare an ample defense by the Oct. 21 court date.
“We’re going to get ready, and if there’s any constitutional reason why they can’t be ready, we’ll be inform Judge Letts,” he said. “But we’ll be ready.”