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Judge in Jasmine Pace Trial Sets Suspect’s Bond at $5,000,000

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Judge Larry Ables sets Jason Chen's bond at $5 million. Friday, December 9, 2022. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

On Friday, Dec. 9, Judge Larry Ables held a bond hearing for suspect Jason Chen, who the District Attorney’s office accused of killing Jasmine Pace, 22. After listening to bond-specific testimony and arguments from both the prosecution and defense, Judge Ables set Chen's bond at $5 million.

Family and members of the public attend the bond hearing for Jason Chen. Friday, December 9, 2022. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

Nearly a dozen people stood in the back of general session courtroom four, as family members, friends and supporters of both the victim and suspect filled the pews. Throughout the hearing, the testimony and arguments sparked audible reactions from the audience. Family and friends of Pace’s family tried to contain their grief by holding their hands over their face and using tissues, and Chen’s mother spoke through restrained tears during her testimony.

In this case, the bond’s multi-million dollar figure reflects the serious nature of the charges against Chen. The homicide detective and medical examiner involved in the case testified, and then, Chen’s mother spoke to the court through an interpreter. 

The prosecution argued that Chen poses a threat to public safety, is a flight risk, has no strong ties to Chattanooga and has no ties to continuous employment. District Attorney Coty Wamp introduced several details to the case through Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Cogswell’s testimony, which described the violent, gruesome details of Pace’s injuries.

District Attorney General Coty Wamp gives the state's closing argument in the bond hearing for Jason Chen. Friday, December 9, 2022. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

“When he got scared, he flew to Nolensville, he went home,” Wamp said during the closing arguments. “There is no defendant that deserves a higher bond than Jason Chen.”

Meanwhile the defense had asked for a $250,000 bond– which drew gasps from the victim’s family– on the basis that Chen has no prior convictions, was willing to surrender his passport, adhere to GPS monitoring or other restrictions and has strong ties to his home in Nolensville, Tennessee. Moreover, his lawyer explained that Chen is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is currently set to graduate in May 2023.

Judge Ables considered both arguments before setting Chen’s bond at $5 million.

“There are real issues for Chen,” Judge Ables said in his statement. “The testimony today is not favorable to Chen.”

Jason Chen reacts to Judge Larry Ables setting his bond at $5 million in court. Friday, December 9, 2022. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

Chen appeared late to the hearing after delaying due to a supposed illness which his doctor could not corroborate, according to the judge.

Understanding the emotional weight and widespread publicity of the case, Judge Ables carefully explained the intent of the bond, including which factors were relevant in determining a necessary amount.

In the state of Tennessee, a bond is an amount of money that a defendant or their associates pays to the court in order to secure the release of a defendant from jail while they await trial. If the defendant fails to appear in court or violates the conditions of their release, they may forfeit the bond and the state takes them back into custody.

The state is currently holding Chen in custody, and he will remain there until he is able to pay the bond or until his trial takes place. The defense, prosecution and judge agreed to set the preliminary hearing for Thursday, Feb 16, at 9:00 am.

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