Sunday, November 07, 2004
Afghan deal draws criticism
Timothy Workman is providing security in Afghanistan while he appeals his voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Convicted of killing a Roanoke man in a restaurant parking lot two years ago, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent is spending his time in Afghanistan rather than a prison cell.
Already free on a $100,000 appeal bond, Timothy Workman was allowed last year to travel to Afghanistan to work in what his attorney calls a "quasi-military" role in the war-torn country.
Workman is employed by Global Risk Strategies, a British company that provides security in volatile sites such as Iraq and Afghanistan. As a West Point graduate with experience in the military and law enforcement, Workman is clearly qualified for the work, defense attorney Tony Anderson said.
Based in Kabul, Workman has helped protect Afghan citizens and humanitarian workers against possible insurgent attacks for about a year, Anderson said.
If Workman eventually loses his appeal, the money he is making - reportedly about $100,000 a year - will go toward supporting his wife and children while he serves a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
"To earn that kind of money and at the same time serve his country in a quasi-military fashion, I think we saw that as a perfect fit," Anderson said.
A relative of the man Workman killed sees the arrangement differently.
"It's very disturbing," said Michael Patterson. Patterson is the brother of Keith Bailey, who was shot and killed by Workman as they struggled outside a Roanoke nightclub more than two years ago. Workman was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years but was allowed to remain free on bond pending an appeal.
Patterson thinks Workman has received special treatment because of his law enforcement status.
"We see it all the time," he said. "Law enforcement has a tendency to stick together. The code they live by ... is that no one is willing to make him responsible for his actions, because of the job that he held."
However, appeal bonds are not unheard-of for people who can afford them.
Judges in the region have granted them in recent years for a murder defendant in Franklin County, a physician convicted of tax charges in federal court and a woman who conspired to have her ex-husband killed in Botetourt County.
"They are not the norm," Robert Bushnell, president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys, said of appeal bonds. "But by no stretch of the imagination are they unheard-of."
Bushnell, the chief prosecutor in Henry County, said he would be surprised if someone such as Workman skipped out on an appeal bond. "It's not like he's going to disappear into the same mountains that Osama bin Laden is hiding in," he said.
Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell said he believes Workman will return to Virginia to begin serving his time if his appeal fails.
Workman was never considered a flight risk and was released on bond shortly after his arrest. Caldwell did not object to the bond remaining in effect after Workman was convicted. Nor did his office oppose Workman's later request for permission to go to Afghanistan.
"In my experience, we have little problem with people who come to the court and ask permission to do things," Caldwell said. "It's the ones who leave in the middle of the night and never show up who are the biggest problems."
"That's not to say we don't get burned every once in a while."
Now that Workman is half a world away, Patterson wonders whether he will be able to disappear into the remote mountains of Afghanistan.
"That may be part of the plan, especially with his background in the DEA," Patterson said. "They have so many resources that are available to them."
Workman, 34, has no prior criminal record. Caldwell said the manslaughter conviction appears to be "an aberration in his otherwise exemplary life."
High school valedictorian, West Point graduate, former Army military police officer, DEA agent and martial arts expert, Workman would appear to have little to gain by becoming a lifelong fugitive to escape a five-year prison stint.
Two years ago, Workman was a Texas-based agent for the DEA and was in Roanoke to investigate a marijuana smuggling case. On the night of Feb. 11, 2002, he decided to spend some off-duty time at O'Charley's, a restaurant near Valley View Mall.
In the parking lot, he met up with Keith Bailey of Roanoke. They exchanged words about a woman Bailey had known and Workman had just met that night. The two men struggled, and Workman shot Bailey in the chest.
At an October 2002 trial, a jury rejected Workman's claim of self-defense and convicted him of manslaughter. After the trial, Judge Jonathan Apgar allowed Workman to remain free and later modified the conditions of his bond to allow him to go to Afghanistan.
Workman, who lost his job with the DEA as a result of his conviction, had been working construction jobs but was making barely enough to support his family, now living in New York, Anderson said.
"When this opportunity came up, it was a chance for him to earn a substantial income," he said.
On its Web site, Global Risk Strategies identifies itself as a "political and security risk management company" that was formed in 1998 to serve both private and government clients.
The company has provided "security, logistics and facilitation services" to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq, according to the Web site, and is also involved in election and currency exchange programs in Afghanistan.
The Web site also includes contact information for potential job applicants.
When deciding whether to set a bond, Virginia judges must consider whether the defendant poses either a flight risk or a threat to society. Once those two considerations were taken into account in Workman's case, the issue of where he went was not as important.
"From my perspective, whether he's working in Utah or working in Afghanistan, until that appeal runs its course, he has a life, and he has obligations," Caldwell said.
"So to the extent that he can support his family, I don't see anything particularly negative about that. Assuming the court upholds his conviction, he will have to pay his debt to society, and I anticipate that he will."
The Virginia Court of Appeals has agreed to consider Workman's appeal on three different grounds. A decision is not expected until next year at the earliest. Caldwell said the case could remain on appeal until 2006.
Patterson said he was not aware that Workman was out of the country until contacted last week by a reporter.
Although Roanoke prosecutors routinely contact the relatives of victims of slayings about important developments in cases, Caldwell said changes in a bond such as Workman's might not rise to that level.
"I don't have a bone to pick with them," Patterson said of Roanoke prosecutors. "I think they did a fantastic job. It's more with the judge who's allowing him to come and go as he pleases."
While some might say that Workman is providing a valuable service at great personal risk, Patterson does not buy that argument. He has a son stationed in Fort Dix who will soon be sent to Iraq.
To serve his country, Patterson's son was required to have no criminal record - unlike Workman.
Said Patterson: "I don't think there's any kind of patriotic spin that you can put on this whatsoever."
Correction posted 11/9/2004: Prosecutors and defense lawyers negotiated a change to Timothy Workman's bond that allowed him to travel to Afghanistan while his involuntary manslaughter conviction is appealed. The agreement did not require or receive the approval of Roanoke Circuit Judge Jonathan Apgar. This story, posted Sunday, was incorrect on that point.