REXBURG (KSL.com) — Lori Daybell will remain held in an Idaho jail on a $1 million bond, a judge decided Friday afternoon following a spirited argument by Daybell’s attorney seeking to reduce bail based on an accusation that authorities improperly recorded his phone conversations with Daybell.
Daybell’s attorney, Mark Means, also asked the court to consider a “reasonable” bond amount of $100,000 to $250,000 in light of the economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following more than two hours of arguments, Magistrate Judge Michelle Mallard ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to support the motion and denied the request.
“I cannot find any good cause to reduce the bond further than it already has,” she said. “I would advise Mr. Means consult with local defense attorneys who I’m sure have come up with alternatives during this time … about ways to surmount any virus problems at the jail in regards to communicating with clients.”
Daybell, wearing a protective face mask due to COVID-19 precautions, looked down as the ruling was made. She was arrested in Hawaii in February after a monthslong investigation into the disappearance of her two children, Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, from Rexburg. The two still have not been found after going missing last September.
Daybell was charged in Madison County with two counts of desertion and nonsupport of a dependant child. She is seeking a reduction in her $1 million bond during her hearing Friday. It was previously reduced from $5 million in March.
The majority of Friday’s hearing focused on Means’s motion to seek a reduction in bond in relation to an accusation that authorities improperly recorded calls he made with Daybell, who is referred to in court documents as Lori Vallow.
In an affidavit filed in Madison County court, Lt. Jared Willmore of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that two calls were recorded on March 31 and deleted. One call lasted a minute while another lasted nearly a half-hour, Willmore said.
“I immediately found it strange that the calls had been recorded because I had turned off the recording on March 30th specifically for the same defendant and her attorney. I also found it strange because I knew her attorney was aware the recording could be turned off in the visitor center. I called Telmate and informed them that the 28-minute phone call needed to be removed from our records,” Willmore wrote in the affidavit.
Means argued that the recordings should not have occurred in the first place and that there may have been another recording that existed. He added what was discussed during the calls was meant to be confidential and that the recordings create a distrust that meetings before trial will remain confidential.
“I was repeatedly told it wasn’t recorded, it wasn’t going to be recorded, the recordings were off,” he said. “So I relied on that representation to have that communication. My gut was ‘I think they recorded it.’”
Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood countered by calling the Means’ motion “problematic” and also “an issue that doesn’t exist.” Wood added there is a notice that calls may be recorded by a third party when someone makes a call and that there was evidence Means knew that the calls might be recorded.
“We have a document, sworn under penalty of perjury, that can only be read one way. Then when you look at the facts, (the motion) is clearly so out of line with the facts,” Wood said.
Following a 10-minute recess and a 20-minute rebuttal period, Mallard concluded there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the claim made against the state. Before making a ruling, she also pointed out that the incident happened during Idaho’s stay-at-home order related to COVID-19. That order meant the best way for attorneys to reach their clients was through the phone to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which ultimately led to the complaint in the motion.
She continued by saying there wasn’t enough evidence that proved what the Means’ complaint said nor was there evidence that Daybell’s rights were being violated.
“In this case, I don’t really see an impact on Ms. Daybell’s constitutional rights with the jail process,” Mallard said. “The sheer volume of evidence that needs to be digested by Ms. Daybell and her attorney does make it difficult with her being in jail but there are other people in jail right now that have defenses they have to go through with their attorney — certainly not with the volume, I’m sure, but they are still there.”
Following the hearing, Means spoke with a handful of reporters outside the courthouse and said it is unlikely that Daybell will be able to post bond.
“There is not a lot of goodwill for her as she’s sitting in the Madison County Detention Center right now,” Means said. “There are not a lot of people that are willing to step up and participate or put their name down on a co-sign sheet to help acquire a million dollars for the bond.”
Means said he could not discuss Daybell’s missing children and when asked why his client does not reveal their location, he declined to comment.
Daybell’s preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled to begin on July 9.