Police Find Fugitive After 30 Years, Judge Lets Him Free on Bail

Police in Florida spent 30 years looking for a convicted armed robber who escaped from a work release center. Last week he was finally found. So what does the judge do? He allows him to go free on bail.

Let's back up a bit. In January 1977, a man named Oscar Richardson held up a drug store in Florida, holding two employees at gunpoint while he demanded cash from a safe. Two months later, he held up a convenience store, also at gunpoint. He was nabbed minutes after the second robbery, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But in 1979 he escaped from a work release center, and has been on the run ever since.

Fast-forward 30 years. With the Christmas season in mind, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched "The 12 Days of Fugitives," in an effort to capture the state's most wanted fugitives. Catchy... and actually successful.

A call to the tip line led to Richardson, who was living in Missouri under the name Eugene Ward.

"Richardson is the oldest case among the dozen escapees and it is fitting that justice caught up with him first," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "We thank our friends in the media for reaching the public so effectively with the names and faces of these fugitives."

But Bailey's exuberance was short-lived, because appearing in court in Missouri on Monday, Richardson was allowed to post bond. Such much for being a flight risk.

In response, Bailey issued an angry statement:"I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the irresponsible decision of Judge Tony Williams to allow Oscar Richardson to post bond. Richardson is a violent felony offender who was serving time in Florida for an armed robbery conviction when he fled after serving only a fraction of his sentence. Allowing this fugitive to walk out of a courtroom after hiding from authorities for 30 years diminishes the seriousness of his crimes and shows a lack of sensitivity for those he victimized and a disregard for the safety of the citizens of Taney County. We are working closely with Missouri authorities to aggressively pursue Richardson's extradition to Florida. His debt to our state remains unpaid."

What do you think of the judge's decision -- was he just extending rights to Richardson granted under the Constitution, or was it just really, really stupid?


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