Rufus Johnson, an unlicensed New Orleans bail bondsman and frequent political candidate who is accused of illegally rigging numerous bonds for Orleans Parish arrestees, was jailed this week after he was accused of violating his own bond as he awaits trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr. revoked Johnson’s personal surety bond and ordered him jailed without bail Thursday after a hearing over alleged physical threats and other violations.
Court records related to the hearing include a transcript of a taped conversation in which Johnson repeatedly warned of the repercussions of his anger.
“I’m unhappy as a (expletive). And when I’m unhappy, I don’t know who gonna do what ... (Expletive) might come by there and kill everybody. I’m not responsible,” Johnson is quoted as saying in the transcript.
“Who goin’ to kill who, Rufus?” an unnamed party asks in the tape turned over to authorities.
“I don’t know. I’m just — I’m goin’ to let the police put everyone on notice. I don’t know what the (heck) going to happen. I’m just let ’em know, I’m unhappy, and when I’m unhappy, I don’t know who might do what.”
Johnson, 66, went on to say that he once stopped “a girl from getting raped one night. And the dude who was doing the raping? Two weeks later after that, the Lord broke his jaw,” according to the transcript. “I’m just saying, I’m a dangerous (expletive) by what happened. I want people to be on notice.”
Just what set Johnson off on his tirade was unclear in the transcript.
Johnson’s attorney, Hillard Fazande III, cited other reasons for his client’s bond revocation.
“There were allegations that he didn’t abide by seeking proper employment. There were allegations that he was in contact with witnesses and co-defendants, and he wasn’t supposed to be,” Fazande said. “He had some instances where police were called out for (his) disturbing the peace, arguments with his son and with folks in his son’s office. Police contact. They’re saying it wasn’t timely reported.”
Fazande said he didn’t consider the alleged threats to be real, but he noted that bond revocation hearings operate under a lower standard of proof than a criminal trial.
Johnson was taken to the St. Tammany Parish Jail, where he could remain until his trial date in five months.
Johnson let his bonding license lapse in 1989 and was no longer eligible to get a license because he’s a convicted felon. Authorities say that didn’t deter him from using the licenses of others to write bonds while paying off court clerks for favors that included access to computer system information and the illegal release of inmates.
All told, prosecutors named 11 people in the scheme, seven of whom have pleaded guilty over the course of a multiple-year probe into Orleans Parish bonding practices.
Indicted along with Johnson were his son, criminal defense attorney James Johnson; ex-bondsman Perry Becnel; and Josephine Spellman, a former employee of Rufus Johnson.
The allegations include conspiracies to commit wire fraud and honest-services fraud.
Johnson, who once ran for office under the slogan “He has the favor of God,” was disqualified in 2014 from bidding to unseat U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans. A judge ruled that Johnson had failed to pay long-standing state ethics fines from an earlier campaign but had checked a box on his state candidacy statement that said otherwise.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.