News Roundup: As Investigation Continues, Charges Against Deceased Austin Serial Bomber Dismissed

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelApril 10, 2018 1:44 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Authorities have dismissed federal charges against the deceased Austin serial bomber.

From KUT News in Austin, DaLyah Jones reports they’ve also released more information about the investigation into the bombings that killed two people and injured four last month.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed a pending charge against Mark Conditt, who was identified as the Austin serial bomber last month. The federal complaint charged Conditt with one count of unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device. The complaint was removed after Conditt’s body was identified and his remains released to his family. U.S. Attorney John Bash says the investigation is not over.

“The investigation continues,” Bash says. “We’re looking at his intent and his motivations there are no further suspects at this time and we do not have any reason to believe there’s a further destructive device out there although the public should remain vigilant for suspicious packages.”

The arrest affidavit describes the similarities between the bombs and the evidence that connects them to Conditt. Someone who appears to be him using a credit card issued to him bought components of the bomb. Officials also say they are not certain whether they will release the confession video Conditt recorded before his death. Conditt committed suicide by detonating a bomb in his vehicle as police closed in on him.

Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas will send more than 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border over the next month. The state first announced it was deploying 250 Texas National Guard personnel this past Friday, in response to President Donald Trump’s request for help with immigration enforcement.

Abbott told San Antonio radio station KTSA Monday that Texas is not the only state sending troops to the southern border, “that will of course expand in New Mexico, in Arizona, and in California, the goal is to have at least 4,000 deployed here in about a month or two.”

Abbott says while some soldiers will be armed, their role will mostly be doing surveillance and supporting Border Patrol personnel – not actually arresting anyone coming across the border. Communities and local officials in Texas border towns have expressed mixed reactions to this ramped up military presence.

Another Texas county is facing a legal challenge to its cash bail system.

This comes after a federal judge struck down Harris County’s system for people charged with low-level crimes in 2017, ruling it unfair to poor defendants.

During that case, videos were played in court that showed how bail was set for Harris County defendants. In one instance, a man’s bond was set at 5-thousand-dollars after being arrested on charges of illegally sleeping under a freeway underpass.

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sued Dallas County over a similar bail system. Now, this advocacy group is suing Galveston County too. They argue that county’s bail system violates the constitutional rights of defendants who can’t afford to make bail since those who can pay – but face the same charges – are released until trial.

Trisha Trigilio, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas says Galveston County doesn’t even need money bail to get people to show up to court.

“There’s research showing that in places that don’t use money bail at all, the rates of court appearance are the same or even higher than in places that do use money bail,” Trigilio says.

Trigilio adds that when defendants can’t afford to pay their bail in Galveston County, they can be locked up for weeks or months while awaiting trial.