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Kelvin Pell
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State of Tennessee vs Kelvin Pell

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A Marion County bail agent is looking for a bond of his own after he fell into a honey trap and got caught with his pants down.

Women had complained about bondsman Kelvin Pell asking for sex in return for writing their bonds, Marion County Sheriff's Detective Chad Johnson said. But there wasn't much the law could do about it without, so to speak, an undercover operation.

So when a woman who was cooperating in a drug investigation "indicated she had some information" about Pell, Johnson was interested.

The woman said Pell had written a bond for her earlier, and since then had been texting her about how gorgeous she was. And she was willing to wear a wire to try to develop evidence for a bust.

So she called Pell from the jail Wednesday — that was part of the setup, Johnson said — saying she needed a $1,000 bond, but didn't have any money. He told her they could work that out, got her out of jail and took her to his office on Betsy Pack Drive.

The detectives listened as he made her raise her shirt and show her breasts — they didn't know until later that he grabbed her breast — and told her about how there were many other women he knew who've offered sex for bonds.

She asked for a ride back to her motel room, and asked on the way what she had to do "to make the money go away?" Johnson said.

"What do you have in mind?" Pell asked back.

"How many times do I have to have sex?" she said.

Since she owed about $400, Pell said, "That's a lot of money, it might take a couple of times to work that off."

They got to the motel and the woman went into the bathroom to "freshen up," telling Pell to "get comfy," Johnson said.

She stayed in the bathroom and whispered into her body mic that she was out of the way, while he took off his pants, underwear, shoes and socks. That's when Johnson and other officers used their own key to the room they'd rented and walked in.

"He has no expectation of privacy in a room the police have rented," Johnson said, chuckling.

According to the police affidavit, Pell confessed during his interview at the Marion County Justice Center that he's traded sex "multiple times" with women he bonded out and said such activity is "a common occurrence in the bonding industry."

Johnson said that was news to him.

"He's the only one we've had any complaints about in Marion County," he said.

Pell's employer, Andy Baggenstoss of Cumberland Bail Bonding, also said any such activity is improper.

Baggenstoss said via email that Pell is a independent contractor, not an employee, and that Cumberland has suspended his contract.

"We take allegations of sexual misconduct or other unprofessional actions very seriously. As such, we are now in the process of conducting an independent review of the situation. Cumberland Bail Bonding always works to ensure our independent agents use professional judgment and follow the law."

Pell is charged with sexual battery, a Class E felony, and patronizing prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor. He's being held on a $10,000 bond in the Marion County Jail pending a court appearance Wednesday.

And, no, Cumberland Bail Bonding won't be writing that bond.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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