“The nature and circumstances of the offenses charged are very serious charges, your honor, involving some of the most dangerous conduct imaginable,” said Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric in asking Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters for the $2 million sum.
Waters accepted Skoric’s recommendation at a Friday hearing at the Park County Courthouse in Cody.
Jesse Speer is charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and use of a firearm while committing a felony. If found guilty on all three counts, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison plus 20 years. But before a trial, Waters must determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial in District Court. That preliminary hearing is tentatively set for Friday.
Speer is alleged to have been the man who lured the 11-year-old girl to an SUV, forced her inside at gunpoint, tied her up and hit her, assaulted her and then left her in the Carter Mountain area in what Skoric described as hypothermic conditions. The girl was found by hunters at about 8:15 p.m. on Oct. 8 — roughly four hours after she was taken from in front of the Park County Complex.
The case against Speer — a graphic designer and landscape photographer who’d been living in Manhattan, Mont. — is based on surveillance camera footage that appears to match Speer and his vehicle to the abduction route recalled by the girl. Police say Speer also appears to match the girl’s description of her abductor. Perhaps most specifically, the girl reportedly described the man as having framed glasses with a blue line down the side. Police say Speer was wearing glasses matching that description when they arrested him in Belgrade, Mont., on Oct. 13.
“From the state’s stance, the weight of the evidence is strong, but most importantly, your honor, in determining this bond is the nature and seriousness and danger posed to any person, specifically the community, should this defendant be released,” Skoric said.
Speer’s court-appointed attorney, Travis Smith of Cody, did not make a specific bond recommendation to the court, but suggested $2 million was too high.
Smith noted his client is entitled to reasonable bond. He said “there are obviously three serious allegations pending before the court,” but also pointed out that Myron Friday — charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing of his wife, Julie Friday — is being held on $1 million cash bail. Skoric is seeking the death penalty in that case.
“I guess I throw that out there in kind of a proportionality argument,” Smith told Waters. The attorney also noted that Speer immediately waived extradition to Park County after being arrested in Montana and has no criminal convictions on his record.
Waters said although the thought of Friday’s $1 million bond had occurred to him, “the circumstances in this case are right for right now at least” to set Speer’s bond at $2 million.
If he were to post the cash amount, Speer would be subject to a slew of bond conditions. They include constantly wearing a GPS monitor, daily check-ins with law enforcement, having no weapons and not having any contact with minors unless supervised by an adult. Skoric had asked for one condition he acknowledged “sounds like something of a strange request” by asking that Speer be barred from driving. “Certainly one of the instruments or tools used in this offense was the vehicle itself,” Skoric said. Waters rejected that condition.
However, it appears highly unlikely that Speer will be able to raise that sum of cash and be released.
In his filing for a court-appointed attorney, the self-employed Speer described himself as having considerably more debts than assets and said he believed his friends and family could only come up with $1,000 to bail him out. Speer also said in the application that he owns a firearm or firearms that he values at about $300.
Speer sat quietly and attentively during the roughly 15-minute hearing in front of a full Circuit Courtroom. He spoke only with brief answers to routine questions from Waters.
Speer was brought to the Park County Detention Center last Wednesday, after Park County Sheriff’s Deputies retrieved him from the Gallatin County, Mont., jail, Sheriff Scott Steward told KODI-AM last week.
Steward said in a Friday interview with the Tribune that Speer will have to be kept in isolation at the jail.
“Any time you have allegations of this nature, you’re going to have locals or other people in there that take offense to it and are going to want to retaliate or do something against the subject,” he said.
Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam said at a Oct. 15 press conference that more charges are expected against Speer, but there is no public record of that having been done.
The preliminary hearing for Speer on the charges of kidnapping,aggravated assault and use of a firearm was set for Friday, but that hearing has been pushed back at Smith's request. It’s common for preliminary hearings to be delayed to give the defense more time to prepare.
Smith declined to comment on the case when contacted by the Tribune.
Editor's note: This version has been updated to reflect that the preliminary hearing has been delayed.