A California bail reform group backed by A-list celebrities has shut down after being sued for releasing a serial criminal who less than a week later tried to murder a waiter in Las Vegas.
The Bail Project — whose supporters include Danny Glover, John Legend and Richard Branson — announced it discontinued its operations due to restructuring in early December, 8 NewsNow reported.
Its closure comes after it posted a $3,000 bond for burglary suspect Rashawn Gaston-Anderson in December 2021.
Six days later, Gaston-Anderson shot Chengyan Wang 11 times in Chinatown, 8 NewsNow reported.
In a plea deal, the 24-year-old was convicted of attempted robbery and mayhem, both with deadly weapon enhancements, according to News 3 Las Vegas.
Gaston-Anderson was sentenced in December to seven to 18 years behind bars for the shooting.
The waiter, who was struck by seven rounds in the attack at Shanghai Taste, is suing the non-profit for its role in releasing Gaston-Anderson despite his criminal past.
Wang — who also is suing Gaston-Anderson and Shanghai Plaza owner US Hui De Real Estate Investment Corp. – is seeking over $15,000 in damages from each defendant, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“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 newspaper.
The lawsuit accuses The Bail Project of failing to take into account Gaston-Anderson’s potential danger to the community given his pending and past cases.
In 2018, he pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in Las Vegas and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
The following year, he was convicted of felony burglary in New York and in 2021 he was convicted of auto theft in Illinois, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the news outlet.
In November 2021, he also was arrested for pandering and carrying a concealed weapon, 8 NewsNow reported.
He was reportedly released without bail and ordered to stay out of trouble.
However, he was arrested again the following day on burglary and theft charges. The repeat offender was then sprung from jail after the non-profit posted 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,” Wolfson told the 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,” the prosecutor 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, as required by state law, Kaplan told the paper.
“They’re going around as a bailing agency bailing people out with no or little due diligence,” he said.
Cameron Pipe, a regional director for The Bail Project, called the shooting “an absolute 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 group noticed any red flags before posting Gaston-Anderson’s bond.
The Bail Project’s Deputy General Counsel Katie Poor told the outlet that the group provides “free bail assistance and what we call community release.”
She pointed out how people are innocent until proven guilty and that bail conditions are set by a judge.
Las Vegas Justice Court Judge Amy Chelini set Gaston-Anderson’s bail at $3000 at the request of the Clark County DA’s office, according to court records cited by 8 News Now.
He was reportedly one of 51 people that The Bail Project has bailed out in the Las Vegas area since February 2021.
Of those, 91% returned to their court dates, a spokesperson told the outlet.
Kaplan, Wang’s attorney, alleges that US Hui De Real Estate Investment Corp. is liable for not providing adequate security at the time of the shooting, the Review-Journal reported.
Eric Chen, its Las Vegas legal adviser, could not be reached for comment by the paper. A rep for The Bail Project in Pasadena also could not be reached.
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.”
Clark County Public Defender Darin Imlay acknowledged that his office played a role in bringing The Bail Project to the Las Vegas Valley but has no formal relationship with the group.
Imlay told the Review-Journal that the group accepts referrals from any attorney, including private attorneys, but that it decides by itself whether to bail someone out.
Gaston-Anderson said he needed a co-signer and his public defender referred him to The Bail Project.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to co-sign for myself because I’m not from out here,” he told 8 News Now from the Clark County Detention Center.