Judge Larry Ables addresses threats after giving Chen bond

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Hamilton County Judge Larry Ables found yesterday that there was enough probable cause to proceed in Jason Chen trial of the murder of Jasmine Pace.

Chen has not bonded out of the Hamilton County Jail since being arrested, but there has been anger in the community over Chen getting a bond at all.

Before Jason Chen’s hearing officially got underway on Thursday at the Hamilton County Courthouse, Judge Ables addressed criticisms that he received after the December bond hearing of Jason Chen.

At that hearing, he gave Chen a five million dollar bond, which Judge Ables says is the largest he’s ever seen in the Hamilton County court system.

However, he says he received very negative feedback from the community for giving Chen any bond at all.

Judge Ables said that, “I also received threats after the bond hearing, and security had to escort my wife and I out of the building.”

He says that the parents of Mr. Chen, who have been the only ones present in support of their son at these hearings, also received threats and had to be escorted out by security.

He explained that because District Attorney Coty Wamp has not filed this case as a capital case, Chen is legally required in the state of Tennessee to have a bond.

This right to a bond is declared in Article I, Section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution. 

It states in part , “all prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for capital cases, when the proof is evident, or the presumption is great.”

The state of Tennessee defines a surety as a three party contract between a person, insurance company, and public official.

Judge Ables explained that bond agencies are only able to require a client to put up 10 percent of a bond to secure release, which in Chen’s case would be $500,000.

A bond company could charge less than that if they wanted to, but Judge Ables says that’s unlikely.

Judge Ables explains, “If that bail agent has the proper amount of resources, they can secure his release. If Mr. Chen were to bond out of jail and flee the jurisdiction, that bail agent and bonding company would be subject to losing the five million dollars that they deposited with the court to secure his release.”

He reminds the public that any murder trial, including this one, is a long legal process that must play out correctly.

Judge Ables said, “I know that the Pace family does not support or encourage any of these threats that have been made by uninformed members of the community, who feel like they are doing the right thing but really are stepping way beyond the bonds of acceptable behavior.”

The next step in this legal process is a grand jury hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to indict Chen on his charges.

The case would then move to a trial pending any plea agreement.

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Hamilton County Judge Larry Ables presiding over the Jason Chen trial on February 16, 2023.

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