The bond revocation hearing for Compass Academy founder Jonathan “Jay” Brooks was rescheduled to next week after Brooks' attorney was not able to make the hearing on Tuesday.
Circuit Court Judge Doyet “Jack” Early moved the hearing to Monday at the Lexington County Courthouse. A time has not been specified.
Several of Brooks' alleged victims from Aiken were present at the Barnwell County Courthouse on Tuesday. Early allowed them to make statements so they wouldn't have to travel to the hearing next week.
“It seems to be prolonging what should have been, we thought, a wrapped-up case,” one victim told the court, adding that he questioned the reasoning for postponing the hearing. “We're concerned Brooks is gonna disappear off the face of the earth.”
Early said he received an email from the S.C. Attorney General's office on Monday, stating that Brooks' attorney, Todd Rutherford, called the attorney general's office to say he would be unable to make the hearing. Early then got a call from Rutherford himself, who said “somehow or another, this hearing did not get put on his calendar.”
Rutherford, who is also a state representative and the House minority leader, invoked an order from S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, which states attorneys who also serve in the General Assembly are protected from being called to trial or hearing if they have duties to tend to with the legislature.
Early said Rutherford had a legislative meeting to attend, and that he asked Rutherford not to invoke the privileges at the last minute.
Brooks was arrested in July and charged with one count of securities fraud; however, a grand jury returned indictments on several additional charges. His bond was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000, and as a condition, he was allowed to take his family to an unknown part of Texas as long as he surrendered his passport.
A motion for bond revocation filed last month in Aiken County states that Brooks, acting as an investment adviser, told an elderly man in Texas that he would roll over $10,900 of the victim's money into an IRA, but he instead cashed the check and converted the money to personal use.
Assistant Attorney General Brian Petrano said on Tuesday that Texas authorities went to arrest Brooks but found his home vacant. A representative from the bond company that handled Brooks' bond said he did not know Brooks' whereabouts. He said Brooks was required to “check in” with the bondsman on a regular basis, but that he'd have to verify when Brooks' last check-in was.
Petrano called the Texas allegations “substantially similar” to the crimes Brooks is accused of in Aiken. The warrant for his arrest last year alleges that Brooks took investment money for a fictional entity called the Charles Howell Trust and instead converted the funds for his personal use.
“He was charged with additional crimes, and he's a danger to the community,” Petrano said.
A victim's advocate for the attorney general's office said on Tuesday that there are more than 50 alleged victims in South Carolina. Petrano told the court the amount Brooks allegedly swindled from the victims runs into the “hundreds and hundreds of thousands” of dollars.
A spokesperson for the Denton County Sheriff's Office said late on Friday that Brooks had not been arrested, but that law enforcement was actively searching for him.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.
Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this article, Rutherford's title was incorrect. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.