Lower Bail Ordered in Drug Case

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Ventura County judge on Wednesday lowered bail for the ex-wife of Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr. after a state appeals court found it had been set too high.

Superior Court Judge Arturo Gutierrez reduced Cheryl Christie's bail from $500,000 to $100,000 and imposed several conditions to prevent her from fleeing the area before trial.

"You can take it or leave it," the judge said.

Christie agreed to the terms, but the 54-year-old former bookkeeper, who has yet to enter a plea, expected to remain in jail for a while. Under a court order, she must prove the source of any bail money she uses is legitimate.

"That is our next step," said defense attorney Kay Duffy. "And it is probably going to be a somewhat long process."

Christie was indicted in February on 19 criminal counts in a drug-and-racketeering case involving her ex-husband, who is accused of running a gang that stole drugs from an Air Force base and sold them to high school students in Ventura and Ojai.

She has been jailed since then and turned to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura after other requests to lower bail were denied.

This week, the appeals court ruled there was no basis on which to set Christie's bail five times higher than the recommended bond for the alleged offenses.

The justices found Christie poses no threat to public safety and is not a flight risk. And they noted that the charges against her do not involve her personally selling drugs, using weapons or threatening witnesses.

They did not, however, specify a new bail amount.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Bennett raised that issue during Wednesday's hearing, asking Gutierrez to lower bail to $250,000--not $100,000 as requested by the defense.

Bennett argued that high bail was necessary because of the severity of the case. Christie was closely connected to the Hells Angels, he said, reminding the court that large amounts of cash and drugs were found during a 1998 raid of her home.

Duffy argued that other people had access to her client's home. She said Christie's fingerprints were not found on the bottles of Vicodin seized by authorities.

Gutierrez set bail at $100,000, but imposed seven conditions for Christie's release.

Among those terms, she would have to check in daily with Ventura police, submit to random drug testing and she could not leave Ventura County or have contact with any Hells Angels members or associates.

"The appellate court talked about conditions," Gutierrez said. "Those are the conditions.

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