Bail Me

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Attorney John Read discovered that Wells had let his state private investigator's license lapse, and he reported it to authorities. In a case that made national newswires because of Wells' fresh Irvin connection, a Dallas County grand jury indicted him on four misdemeanor counts, with state authorities declaring he had not held a valid license for four years.

But the cases went nowhere, and the indictments were dropped before they went to trial. Wells says he was able to produce a receipt that showed he paid for a license. "Their records are pretty screwed up," he says of the state licensing board.

Says Read now, "I don't know how he got out of that one, but that cat has nine lives...I don't have any disputes with him now. [As a bail bondsman] he isn't one of those guys who makes the bond, pockets the money, then goes out looking for some way to get off it and dump your client in jail. That's how some of 'em do it...some of those same people who are on David now."

The Irvin uproar had hardly abated when Wells turned up in the center of another headline case. In a move that hardly endeared him to the defense bar, Wells went to the FBI with information that a client, Oak Cliff grocer and theft-ring organizer Abdel Rahim, had asked him to murder a rival. The feds wired Wells with a recorder, and he secretly taped six subsequent conversations that foiled the plot and provided the evidence to convict Rahim of solicitation of capital murder.

It was around that time that Wells began looking for a way into the bond business, which can be set up in two possible ways. One takes capital. A so-called property bondsman is required to put up a minimum of $50,000 in real estate or certificates of deposit with the county to back his bail bonds.

The other route is to become an agent for a number of insurance companies that work nationwide and pledge their assets as collateral on bail bonds. The agent pays a percentage of his fees to the company.

Wells tossed around with Irvin the idea of going in as partners in a property-backed business, but Irvin wouldn't commit. "We talked about it a few times at the Cowboys Café," recalls Pat Kinnard, whose version Wells does not dispute. "Irvin never got around to saying yes."

Kinnard, who considers Wells a close friend, paints a picture of him far removed from murder-for-hire plots, guns and gumshoeing around the city's tougher precincts. "This is a guy who doesn't drink. He takes his mother to church every Sunday. David's a real decent guy."

In 1998, Kinnard was working in the bond business as an agent for Allegheny Casualty Co., an East Coast surety company that has agents writing bail bonds in more than a dozen Texas counties. Kinnard says Jerry Watson, a company executive who was based in Austin at the time, was looking for a black agent in Dallas. Kinnard recommended Wells.

"At first they weren't interested. They didn't want anybody who hadn't been in the business before," Kinnard recalls. "I said, 'Wait a minute, Jerry...David's been around. He knows all the courthouse players; he's highly connected to Royce West.'"

At the sound of West's name, Kinnard says Watson turned on a dime. "He said, 'I'll be on Flight 7, Southwest Airlines. Pick me up at 9 in the morning.' He said, 'There's a place called Fish. You get a table and schedule a deal with Royce West.'"

As an attorney and executive involved with several insurance companies in the bond business, Watson is "heavily involved" in legislative matters, Kinnard says. As a Texas state senator who chairs the Senate Jurisprudence Committee and sits on the Criminal Justice Committee, West votes nearly every session on legislation affecting bail bonds.

The three men--Watson, Wells and Kinnard--met at Fish, then later paid a visit to West. By the time they sat around a conference table at the senator's Oak Cliff office, says Kinnard, "It was a done deal...They were just talking about what it would be named."

Kinnard says the chain of events did not involve any business involvement or quid pro quo by West. "Watson just wanted to get hooked in with Royce West," Kinnard says. "Down in Austin, he could have an effect on the business. He's just the kind of guy Jerry wanted to know."

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec