A superior court judge denied bond Tuesday morning for one of the men charged in the murder of a former corrections officer from Smith State Prison.
Dennis Sebastian Kraft appeared with Atlanta defense attorney John Melnick in Long County Superior Court on Tuesday asking a judge to grant him bond. Kraft has been behind bars since his arrest on January 13, 2023. A grand jury formally indicted him and two others in the murder of Jessica Jean Gerling last week.
On Tuesday, his attorney argued that Kraft has strong ties to the community and will have gainful employment if released on bond. He read a letter from Kraft’s wife, who was not present, but said their children were “pleading for bond” for Kraft. Melnick also said Kraft has known for almost a year that he was under GBI investigation and had not made any attempts to flee the jurisdiction. He subsequently asked for the judge to set a $50,000 bond.
The state opposed bond, citing charges in the indictment. Specifically, ADA Joe Skeens said the state’s concern was with Kraft already being charged with tampering with evidence and RICO, part of a grander scheme of criminal wrongdoing. Skeens also cited Gerling’s death as a result of the ongoing RICO case, of which Gerling is also a named participant in the criminal acts – namely the murder of Jerry Davis in Wayne County.
Judge Glen Cheney was quick to express his concerns over the case, stating “everyone is familiar with this case” at this point and referencing the indictment, which specifically names the previous Warden of Smith State Prison, Brian Adams, within.
“This goes beyond the walls and everyone is in danger,” Cheney said. “The overall scheme alleged was to make sure no one crossed them…and at this point, I’m not comfortable with bond.”
“All of this is coming together right now. It’s in a state of flux. There are too many wheels turning right now,” Cheney continued, suggesting that there is concern for the general community outside of this.
He also told Melnick the defendant could ask for bond again at a later date.
Long County does not have a jail. Kraft has subsequently been held at the Appling County Jail for the last two months.