KANSAS CITY — A 24-year-old Saudi man accused of hiring his roommate to kill a central Missouri bar owner didn't meet bond conditions when the Saudi government posted $2 million to get him out of jail, a Warrensburg judge told the Missouri Court of Appeals.
Ziyad Abid has been jailed since his arrest in September. His attorneys have asked the appellate court to remove Circuit Judge Michael Wagner from the case, arguing that his refusal to release Abid violates the Missouri Constitution, which allows suspects to be held without bond only in capital murder cases.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office filed a response on behalf of Wagner late Monday, saying the judge was right in refusing to release Abid from jail. Koster argued that the court order setting the bond specifically required that it be paid by a bondsman with proven assets to post the $2 million and the ability to guarantee Abid would show up for trial. The Saudi government doesn't meet that requirement, Koster's office argued.
"The payment of two million dollars by a foreign government did not satisfy the requirement that the bond be posted by 'surety only,'" Koster's office wrote. "The order was explicit regarding the type of surety, namely, a licensed bail bond agent."
Abid's attorneys didn't return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Abid was studying aviation at the University of Central Missouri when he and his roommate, Reginald Singletary, were charged with first-degree murder, but not capital murder, and armed criminal action. According to court documents, Singletary told investigators he fatally shot Warrensburg bar owner Blaine Whitworth on Sept. 1, but alleged that Abid had paid him to do it.
Prosecutors haven't released details about a possible motive. Abid's attorneys have said their client had no personal connection to the bar owner and that Singletary, who had recently been fired from the bar, told investigators several stories before pointing the finger at Abid.
Wagner refused to allow Abid to leave jail after the Saudi government posted his $2 million bail. The bond had been set in late November by Johnson County Circuit Judge Jacqueline Cook, who initially denied bond but later reversed herself, citing the constitutional requirement. She said the high amount — twice that set for Singletary — was necessary because Abid could be deported if released from jail, noting he had lost his student visa or that he could be a flight risk. She later retired and handed the case to Wagner.
Abid's attorneys argue that Wagner was openly violating the Missouri Constitution and was showing bias against their client because of his nationality.
The attorney general's office, which commonly files responses on behalf of judges in court, argued that Wagner's ruling wasn't based on Abid's legal status in the U.S. but noted that the judge could have legitimately used that argument.
"Where a defendant is subject to deportation by an independent, separate sovereign — the United States government — there are no 'sufficient sureties' that can ensure the defendant's appearance at subsequent hearings or trial. Indeed, if deported, Mr. Abid may not be permitted to return, even if he wants to."
Abid's trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 20.