Judge denies bond for woman accused in jewelry store thefts

Author: the associated press
Published: Updated:

ATLANTA (AP) – Bond was denied on Thursday for a 24-year-old woman accused in a string of jewelry store robberies across the South, and a federal judge said she’d be a flight risk if released.

Abigail Lee Kemp smiled at her parents as she shuffled into the Atlanta courtroom. She wore a jail-issued orange sweat shirt and orange pants with her hands cuffed behind her and her legs shackled.

Federal Magistrate Judge Linda Walker said there’s a risk Abigail Lee Kemp would flee or be a danger to the community if released on bond. Kemp will remain in custody and be transferred to the Northern District of Florida to face the charges against her.

Her parents and other supporters declined to comment after the hearing.

Federal prosecutors have accused Kemp and 35-year-old Lewis Jones III of teaming up to rob a half-dozen jewelry stores in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and the Carolinas. The two were arrested Jan. 8 at Kemp’s apartment in Smyrna, an Atlanta suburb.

Kemp and Jones each face a conspiracy charge filed in Florida’s Northern District. Both the prosecutor and the judge said it’s likely additional charges will be filed in Florida and that charges will also be filed in the other states where the robberies happened.

Kemp’s lawyer, Rebecca Shepard, argued that Kemp is not a flight risk, citing the fact that she grew up in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, and that her entire family is there. She also lacks the resources to flee, Shepard said, noting that Kemp qualified to have a public defender.

The behavior she’s accused of would have been an aberration, given that Kemp has no prior history of violent crimes, Shepard said.

An estimated $4.3 million in jewelry was stolen in the six robberies and has not been recovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Roemer said. Money from the sale of that jewelry could be used to flee, she argued. She also noted that Kemp has a passport that she used as recently as May to go to the Dominican Republic and that she now says she can’t find.

Roemer argued that Kemp is a danger to the community, citing the fact that she is accused of using a gun in each robbery and that the employees of at least one jewelry store, in Panama City Beach, Florida, feared they would be executed when they were told to get on their knees.

Roemer also said that committing six robberies and one likely attempted robbery since April means Kemp’s behavior “went from an aberration to almost a pattern or habit.”

The FBI zeroed in on Kemp after analyzing records from cellphone towers near the robberies, then checking social media and hearing from suspicious friends, court records show.

Kemp told FBI agents that Jones was with her for all the robberies, sometimes coming inside and other times staying outside as a lookout, an FBI special agent wrote in court records.

Jones is scheduled to have a bond hearing Friday in Atlanta. Natasha Silas, a federal public defender appointed to represent him, did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment Thursday.

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