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Kelvin Pell

Judges in Marion County have suspended a bail bonding company after one of its agents was charged with seeking sexual favors in return for writing a woman's bond so she could get out of jail.

Circuit Judge Thomas W. Graham said he and his 12th Judicial District colleagues were shocked to hear that bondsman Kelvin Pell, who worked for Cumberland Bail Bonding Co., told arresting officers it was "common practice" to have sex with clients.

"We don't want it to be common practice," Graham said Friday afternoon. "We don't want anything like that happening in this district. We're not going to countenance anything that involves sexual favors for bond premiums."

In a statement Friday, Cumberland Bail Bonding owner Andy Baggenstoss acknowledged the suspension and said the company would work to get it lifted quickly.

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Judge suspends bonding agency after sex-for-bail charges

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Pell was arrested in a Marion County motel room on Feb. 8 by county sheriff's investigators who had set up a sting operation. Officers found him with nude from the waist down while a woman informant wearing a wire hid out in the bathroom. Detective Chad Johnson said he set up the honey trap after repeated complaints from women that Pell sought sex from women he bonded out of jail.

Pell was charged with one count of sexual battery, a Class E felony, and patronizing prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor. He posted a $10,000 bond Feb. 9 and was released from jail, court records show.

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Graham said the judges met Thursday and agreed to suspend Cumberland based on Pell's statement to investigators that he had had sex with "multiple females in the past" and that such activity " is a common occurrence in the bonding industry."

The order also slammed Cumberland Bail Bonding Co. for not immediately notifying the court that Pell has been arrested. That violated local rules of court, the judges said.

In addition, the order said, "The question as to whether the practice of sexual favors in lieu of premiums 'is a common occurrence in the bonding industry' is referred to the District Attorney General and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for such action as each agency may determine is necessary and in the interest of justice."

Graham and his Circuit Court colleagues J. Curtis Smith and Justin C. Angel signed the order. Graham said it would stay in place until the judges are "satisfied there's reasonable assurances that won't happen again."

Baggenstoss' statement to the Times Free Press said: "Cumberland Bail Bonding received the Court's Order suspending our ability to write bonds in Marion County. We certainly respect the Court's authority, but we are also taking the necessary steps to rectify this situation and ask the Court to lift its suspension as soon as possible."

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