LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A non-profit group that bails people out of jail for free has faced scrutiny after one defendant nearly killed a man while out on bond.
The Bail Project posted a $3,000 bond for Rashawn Gaston-Anderson in December of 2021. Six days later, he opened fire on a restaurant worker in Chinatown and shot him 11 times.
“It’s an absolute tragedy and The Bail Project, myself speaking for The Bail Project found it absolutely shocking,” Cameron Pipe said during an interview with the 8 News Now Investigators in January of 2021. Pipe is the regional director for the West.
When asked whether The Bail Project noticed any red flags prior to posting Gaston-Anderson’s bond, Pipe said, “Every single decision that we make at The Bail Project goes through the exact same thorough review.”
The victim, Chengyan Wang filed a lawsuit against Gaston-Anderson, the shopping plaza where the near-fatal shooting occurred, and The Bail Project in September. The lawsuit refers to Gaston-Anderson’s criminal history and how still, The Bail Project posted his bond.
Prosecutors detailed a timeline of court records. In November of 2021, Anderson was arrested for pandering and carrying a concealed weapon. He was released without having to pay bail and was ordered to stay out of trouble. The next day, he was arrested again for burglary and theft. The Bail Project later posted the $3000 bond.
Six days after that, Anderson opened fire on Wang.
Manny and Lilia Ceballos who run Aztec Bail Bonds question The Bail Project’s tactics. “I don’t think they care and truly don’t care because some man nearly lost his life,” Lilia Ceballos said. She and her husband said they adhere to guidelines.
“We pick and choose who we want to do business with. We just don’t bail out habitual problem cases,” Manny Ceballos said.
The Bail Project states that its mission is to disrupt the cash bail system which disproportionately affects the low-income and people of color.
Anderson said he needed a co-signer and his public defender referred him to The Bail Project. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to co-sign for myself because I’m not from out here,” he said in an interview from the Clark County Detention Center.
After the 8 News Now Investigators reached out to The Bail Project again in December, Deputy General Counsel Katie Poor did an interview. “We provide free bail assistance and what we call community release with support which includes rides to and from court, court notifications and we attempt to navigate services in the community based on our clients’ self-identified needs.”
Anderson claimed he had been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and that The Bail Project did not offer mental health services. When asked about this and other aspects of Anderson’s case, Poor said she could not discuss it due to the pending litigation.
Poor pointed out how individuals are innocent until proven guilty and that the conditions of bail are set by a judge. Las Vegas Justice Court Judge Amy Chelini set Anderson’s bail at $3000 at the request of the Clark County District Attorney’s office, according to court records.
Anderson is one of 51 individuals that The Bail Project has bailed out in the Las Vegas area since February of 2021 and 91% of them returned to their court dates, according to a spokesperson.
While Pipe said that an internal review was being done after Anderson’s case, Pipe would not comment.
Anderson was sentenced to a 7 to 18-year prison term.
The Bail Project discontinued operations in Las Vegas in early December due to restructuring, according to the group.
The Bail Project is funded by foundations, philanthropists and individual donors. Celebrities like Danny Glover, John Legend and Richard Branson are on the advisory board, according to the website.