Trump’s bondsman: The only person to have bailed a former president out of jail describes his 14 minutes of adrenaline at Fulton County Jail
Grandson arrested with meth and needs rescuing from the county jail? Husband pulled over for driving under the influence and held downtown? Former president accused of subverting American democracy in a sprawling conspiracy with 18 co-defendants who tried to reverse the results of the 2020 election in Georgia?
Better call Shaw. A diverse clientele is all in a day’s work for Charles Shaw, a Georgia bondsman of 23 years’ standing and the first person in history to put up guarantees for the release of a former president from jail.
He said accepting the job to bail out Donald Trump in Atlanta two weeks ago was easy.
‘I think this is probably the most secure bond I’ve ever executed in my entire career,’ he said two weeks later in his office in a suburb of the city.
‘I don’t think there’s a high risk of him not appearing.’
Charles Shaw is a bail bondsman in Lawrenceville, Georgia. His company put up the $200,000 bond so that President Donald Trump could leave Fulton County Jail after being booked
Shaw had a close-up view of the processing of Trump at the jail, where the former president sat for his booking photo with a defiant pose
It gave Shaw a close-up view of one of the four cases being pursued against the former president.
His company, Foster Bail Bonds, was central to the process that saw Trump appear at Fulton County Jail, to be fingerprinted and photographed.
The whole thing took about 14 minutes before Trump left the jail with orders to return for his trial.
It was Shaw’s job to set up copper-bottomed financial guarantees to ensure that the 45th president would not abscond.
The publicity around the case has been good for business said Shaw.
Takings are up about 10 percent in Fulton County, one of six counties served by Shaw, since Trump was booked there. ‘And that was not one of my more active venues,’ added the former police officer.
It is nine pm and his office is humming. A client fills in forms in the front office to bail out a relative, as one of Shaw’s team coolly juggles two phone calls.
In another office, a member of staff sorts through the files of people who failed to appear in court and will now need, at best, a gentle reminder of their obligations.
‘This is the busiest time,’ said Shaw.
Shaw’s company, Foster Bail Bonds, is based about 45 minutes outside Atlanta. He offers services in six counties, including Fulton County
Trump was booked at Fulton County Jail on August 25. He left for the airport in a motorcade with police motorcycle outriders, looking for all the world as if he were still president
He appeared amid tight security at the jail in downtown Atlanta, Georgia
Trump was released on $200,000 bond with a string of conditions
It was his connections with defense lawyers around town that brought the former president, and several of his co-defendants, to him about a week before Trump was due to surrender.
Bondsmen have their origins in medieval Britain, where they would offer guarantees that the accused would not skip town. The nobility could use their land to make a promise, but lower classes had no such option before the advent of bail bondsmen.
But the idea of profiting from the system has fallen out of favor. And today the U.S. is one of two countries where commercial bondsman still ply their trade (alongside the Philippines.)
Shaw and his colleagues operate by lodging cash with each county where they operate. Shaw has put up $1 million with Fulton County, which guarantees a $10 million line of credit.
Each bond he underwrites is chalked up against that limit. Once each case is discharged, the value of the bond is chalked off again.
For the clients, it means they can keep their assets liquid without having to tie them up for months on end — useful for a billionaire with mounting legal fees.
Trump got the same deal as anyone else. Shaw agreed to put up the $200,000 bail in return for a 10 percent fee.
Shaw said he did not have to think twice, knowing that there would be little chance on a former president disappearing.
‘The former president was a big deal for so many reasons,’ he said. ‘I mean it was history for me as a bail bondsman.
Trump delivered brief remarks after being bailed. He told a small group of media at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson that it was ‘a sad day for America’ and denied any wrongdoing
Shaw also arranged bond for other high-profile clients, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani
‘I’m the only one in the world that has ever done this and probably ever will.
‘I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but that’s a fact.’
Trump is caught up in a sprawling 98-page indictment that includes 19 defendants and 41 criminal counts in all. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
By the time he arrived for booking in Fulton County, Shaw had a well-oiled machine for dealing with his new clients.
He had personally driven Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows to the jail. He had been on hand in the early hours of the morning when former head of the Republican Party in Coffey County, Kathy Latham, and state legislator David Shafer turned themselves in.
And he handled the bond for Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giulani.
So he was ready on the Thursday afternoon when he received a call saying that Trump’s private jet had landed in Atlanta.
Footage of Trump’s motorcade and police outriders with crowds gathered on each side of the street making its way to jail, he said, reminded him of a famous mobster trial from history.
‘It was reminiscent of videos from the John Gotti trial where people were lining the streets,’ he said. ‘Fans and foes on both sides of the street.’
Shaw watched Trump arrive in the jail from the central booking area, separated from his famous client by a transparent screen. All the jail’s top brass were on hand for the occasion.
The first defendants in the Fulton County case could go on trial next month in Atlanta
A person rides a bicycle past artist Chris Veal’s depiction of the booking photo of former US president Donald Trump, painted along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail on Wednesday
‘You could see them having a discussion with him,’ said Shaw. ‘It seemed like everyone was cordial.’
Most of the details had already been arranged in advance. It just remained for the fingerprints and a mug shot.
‘I believe the mug shot was was a point of consternation but he was cooperating, everyone was cooperating,’ added Shaw, saying that the 14-minute was a record for him and no doubt for the jail itself.
‘It was an adrenaline rush,’ he added. ‘The president’s arrival and bonding was the pinnacle of that. But these other defendants … we had people coming in at all hours of the night and day, so I think that slept maybe four hours over three days.’
Shaw was vague about his own politics. Some of Trump’s economic and national security measures helped the country, he said, before adding that he was not a slavish follower of anyone.
‘He’s a client you understand,’ he said.
His job now is to make sure that the client knows when he is due back in Fulton County court.
But for all his inside look at the conspiracy case, he is not the only bail bondsman caught up in the trial. Some have an even closer view.
Bail bondsman Scott Hall is indicted in the case, accused of six charges related to attempts to access election equipment at Coffee County Elections Office. He has denied the charge.
Shaw said he has met him at events around town but doesn’t know him well.
‘He owns that company right across the street,’ he said, pointing to a building with a red neon sign advertising ‘bail bonds.’