Last Updated on December 26, 2022
A bail fund backed by A-list celebrities has shut down after being sued over the release of a serial offender who attempted to murder a waiter less than a week after his latest release. Backers of the California-based bail fund include Danny Glover, John Legend and Richard Branson.
On December 8, The Bail Fund announced that it had discontinued, citing restructuring, according to a report from 8 NewsNow.
The closure comes after the group posted a $3,000 bond for Las Vegas burglary suspect Rashawn Gaston-Anderson in December 2021. Less than a week after his release, Gaston-Anderson shot restaurant worker Chengyan Wang 11 times in Chinatown.
The 24-year-old later took a plea deal that included charges of attempted robbery and mayhem, both of which came with deadly weapon enhancements, News 3 Las Vegas reported. Gaston-Anderson was ultimately sentenced to seven to 18 years in prison earlier this month.
We are honored to have met Shanghai Taste shooting victim Chengyan Wang today to hear his story and to share about the generosity of the community, providing him with a check of $20,000 to help with his recovery.(1/3) pic.twitter.com/zZlSiMu6bC
— ACDC (@ACDCNV) March 3, 2022
Wang, who was critically injured when the gunman opened fire at the Shanghai Taste restaurant, is now suing the celebrity-backed bail fund for its role in securing Gaston-Anderson’s release despite his lengthy criminal record. “He’s got scars all over his body. He can’t move his shoulder over a certain height. I don’t know how (the bullets) missed a vital artery,” the victim’s lawyer, Kory Kaplan, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The lawsuit accuses The Bail Project of failing to take Gaston-Anderson’s lengthy rap sheet into consideration before springing him from jail.
In 2018, the now convicted gunman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in Las Vegas and was sentenced to 18 months of probation, the New York Post reported. He was later convicted of felony burglary in 2019, this time in New York, and in 2021 he was convicted of auto theft in Illinois.
In November 2021, he was again arrested for pandering and carrying a concealed weapon. Despite his felony record, he was reportedly released without bail and ordered to “stay out of trouble.” However, he was arrested again just one day later on burglary and theft charges. At that point, The Bail Project chipped in to post his $3,000 bond.
“Normally when bail is posted, a cash bail, it is a family member or friend who is familiar with the accused,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “One can say, in a sense, they are vouching for the person. They are risking their own money. A family member comes forward, a brother, a friend, and if they put up $3,000 and this person doesn’t show up or re-offends, they lose their own money,” he said.
“In this case, we have an out-of-state national organization with little or no ties to our community who puts up the cash bail,” Wolfson added.
The Bail Project, which advocates against the cash bail system nationwide and provides free bail funds for the poor, never registered as a bail agent with Nevada’s Division of Insurance, Wang’s lawyer said. This is a violation of Nevada law. “They’re going around as a bailing agency bailing people out with no or little due diligence,” Kaplan said.
Cameron Pipe, a regional director for The Bail Project, claimed the group conducts a thorough review before bailing suspects and referred to the shooting as a “tragedy.”
“The Bail Project, myself speaking for The Bail Project, found it absolutely shocking,” Pipe told 8 News Now last year. “Every single decision that we make at The Bail Project goes through the exact same thorough review,” he said when asked whether the nonprofit reviewed Gaston-Anderson’s record before freeing him.
On its website, the group says it “combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system — one person at a time.”
“We restore the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that criminalizes race and poverty,” it says. “We’re on a mission to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system.”
When posting bail, Gaston-Anderson listed The Bail Project as a required co-signer, a recommendation made by his attorney. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to co-sign for myself because I’m not from out here,” Gaston Anderson told 8 News Now from the Clark County Detention Center.