Yesterday brought bad news for Stephen M. McDaniel, the 25-year-old Mercer Law School alumnus accused of killing his neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings. His lawyers’ request for a reconsideration of his bond, originally set at $850,000 by Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown, got denied.
One of McDaniel’s lawyers, Franklin J. Hogue, argued that the bond was “excessive,” claiming that the McDaniel family couldn’t afford more than $150,000. The prosecution countered that the family’s financial picture might have changed since the passing of McDaniel’s grandfather, Hollis Browning, back in April. According to Floyd Buford, another lawyer working for McDaniel, Browning’s will remains to be executed. In the end, the judge left bail as is — meaning McDaniel will remain in jail for the foreseeable future.
Back in April, while opposing a request for bond by Stephen McDaniel, Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters attributed a chilling message-board posting to the defendant. The posting read as follows:
Graduate from law school. Party hard by drinking alone in front of my computer. See my sexy neighbor/classmate come home late. She has talked to me occasionally in the past. Has wanted [a certain piece of my anatomy] for three years. Invite her up for a nightcap, make her a special drink called a Mickey Finn. [According to Winters, a Mickey Finn is a drink “laced with drugs to make you unconscious.”]
She’s out cold. I finally lose my V-card. Oh, no, she OD’d and died. I barbecue her legs and arms to celebrate losing my V-card. Not into organ meat, but throw her torso out, lose it on TV while the cops are discovering her remains, you mad virgins.
According to Winters, the post was written by Stephen McDaniel, and the “sexy neighbor/classmate” was Lauren Giddings.
But was the prosecution too quick to believe anything written on the internet? The following week, we heard from a reader who claimed that McDaniel did not write the post in question:
This was a troll post posted after he was arrested. The prosecution need to do some god damn research and not use false information…. I was online when the post was made. It was posted well after McDaniel was in jail[.]
We reached out to McDaniel’s lawyers for comment. Franklin Hogue denied that his client wrote the “Mickey Finn” posting.
And now, it seems, the prosecution won’t press the matter. Here’s what happened at yesterday’s hearing, according to the Macon Telegraph:
The man who claims that he authored the “Mickey Finn” post lives in Oklahoma. He first heard of McDaniel, who posted to the operatorchan.org message board, after McDaniel allegedly wrote about hypothetical ways to deal with religious demonstrators after the man’s brother was killed in Afghanistan.
Two months after the “Mickey Finn” post, describing how a neighbor was drugged, raped, dismembered and cannibalized, was read during the initial bond hearing for McDaniel, a man who identified himself as Brandon Logan e-mailed Hogue. Hogue talked with him on the phone Monday night, and Logan offered to sign a document swearing that he wrote the Mickey Finn post.
In the e-mail to Hogue, Logan wrote, “Tell Mr. McDaniel that I’m sorry to have caused this trouble.”
….During the Tuesday court hearing, prosecutors and Hogue agreed that the post should be removed from consideration in the case.
District Attorney Greg Winters read the post during McDaniel’s April 3 hearing “with a good faith belief” that it was authored by McDaniel, according to a state motion filed Tuesday.
Malcor said during Tuesday’s hearing that the district attorney’s office received “preliminary information” April 16 that caused prosecutors to “question the authorship of the post.”
April 16? We had such preliminary information a week earlier. But hey, better late than never. And based on the original snafu over the “Mickey Finn” message, one can understand why the prosecution would want to do all of its homework before dropping the matter.
This represents a victory of sorts for McDaniel, but a small one. Because the judge didn’t base his bail decision on the “Mickey Finn” posting, the prosecution’s decision to no longer rely upon it did not change anything.
McDaniel remains in custody. And he still remains the top suspect in the horrific murder of Lauren Giddings.
UPDATE (12/14/2013, 12:45 p.m.): The case continues to move forward. Judge Howard Simms is now making rulings about what evidence will be admitted and what evidence will be excluded at trial.
Judge declines to reduce bond amount for McDaniel [Macon Telegraph]