A Harnett County family of unlicensed bondsmen accused of running down a “bond jumper” in a wild chase were denied an appeal on a wrongful conviction claim.
Marc Christian Gettleman Sr., his wife, Darlene Rowena Gettleman, and their son, Marc Christian Gettleman II claim they were cheated out of a fair trial when the court denied “their motions to dismiss the charges of acting as an unlicensed bondsman.”
All three were convicted of the charge in a May 2019 jury trial.
According to court testimony, Darlene Gettleman was wearing a badge around her neck when a detective responded to a call of “shots fired” and found a truck carrying Justin Emmons on its hood.
Detective Joshua Teasley of the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office testified Darlene Gettleman told him, “We have a $35,000 bond on [Justin] and he is trying to skip bond.” The statement led him to believe she “was a bondsman,” he said at the trial.
Emmons was handcuffed at the scene with the senior Gettleman “holding the other cuff,” according to court records.
The investigation of the case changed when Teasley later learned the Gettlemans were not licensed.
The senior Gettlemans were found guilty of second-degree kidnapping and a slew of other offenses in Emmons’ forced detention on March 15, 2018.
Marc Gettleman Sr. was sentenced to two to three-and-a-half years in prison. His wife was given a prison sentence between one-and-a-half years and two years and 10 months. Their son had chased Emmons through a neighborhood on foot before Emmons escaped in the truck that ended up on its hood, according to trial testimony.
He was given 10 days in the Harnett County Detention Center.
The Gettlemans appealed their convictions, saying the trial court “erred in denying their motions to dismiss the charges of acting as an unlicensed bondsman or runner.” They also claimed faults “between the indictment and jury instructions” with respect to that charge. The senior Gettleman also contended the court “erred in admitting into evidence, over his objection, a recording of a 911 call, in which the caller gave … inadmissible lay-opinion evidence.”
“After careful review, we conclude that Defendants received a fair trial, free from prejudicial error,” N.C. Court of Appeals judges ruled in an opinion filed Dec. 15.
Darlene Gettleman argued she was acting as an accommodation bondsman on behalf of West. The Court of Appeals disagreed, saying she was not the actual surety on the bonds and was only liable in the event of forfeiture to West, not the state.
“We conclude that Defendants did not act lawfully, either as sureties or as accommodation bondsmen. Accordingly, we overrule Defendants’ issues brought on this basis,” Appeals Court Judge Valerie Zachary wrote in the opinion.
Chief Judge Linda McGee and Judge John Arrowood concurred.
Marc Gettleman Sr. is projected to be released from custody in June, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s offender public information. Darlene Gettleman was released from prison in November.
“In December 2017, Justin [Emmons] violated the terms of his probation by missing scheduled appointments and failing drug tests, and he was arrested. Big Marc and Darlene posted bond for Justin, using their business and home as collateral,” according to a summary of the case in the appeals court ruling. “Then, one day in mid-January 2018, Justin failed to show up to work. When Justin appeared that evening, Big Marc handcuffed him, and Defendants took him to the Harnett County Jail and surrendered him in order to have their property released from the bonds.”
The Gettlemans then paid Robert West, a professional bail bondsman, $1,500 to post one of two $15,000 bonds for Emmons, according to the trial summary.
When Emmons left his job and home in March, the Gettlemans “called everybody [they] knew” to find him and offered his girlfriend $100 for information on his location, according to the trial summary.
She said he’d be at a convenience store on March 15, 2018, according to court records, and that’s where the foot chase between Emmons and the younger Gettleman began.
Emmons testified that the senior Gettleman told him to “freeze” or he’d shoot him and that Darlene Gettleman starting running after him and fired a gun. More shots were fired during the incident, according to testimony.
Emmons jumped in his brother’s truck to escape.
Emmons brother told the court that the senior Gettleman drove “against traffic ‘directly at’ them” so he tried to merge into the middle lane of Buffalo Lake Road to avoid a collision.
“He testified that Big Marc followed ‘into the middle lane with me, like PIT maneuvered the right side of my — back of my truck, and it flipped over,” according to the trial summary.
-Dunn Daily Record