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Judge grants bond to man charged with statutory rape

ALBANY, Ga. -- In what an officer of the court called an unusual move, a magistrate set a man charged with an April 6 statutory rape and child molestation free on bail.

Chief Magistrate Baxter C. Howell set Zerklya Shingles, 18, free on $3,500 bail at a committal hearing Wednesday, said Greg Edwards, district attorney of the Dougherty Judicial Circuit.

"The amount of the bail wasn't what made it unusual," Edwards said. "It was that the judge took it on himself, that he made his own motion to set bail."

Howell could not be reached immediately for comment on the bail ruling.

Edwards would have liked Shingles, 18, kept in jail, he said. After all, statutory rape of a 15 year old is a felony that could get Shingles 20 years in prison, he added.

Shingles also faces charges for aggravated assault for his alleged role in 50 BB gun attacks throughout central and northwest Albany during April, Edwards said.

During the attacks Shingles and Jaquez Westmoreland, 18, Dominick Woodsen, 18, and a 15 year old almost put out the eye of a victim, Edwards said.

Clarence Walthour was shot in the left eye while walking out of a convenience store in April. He said at the time that if he had not been wearing his glasses he would have lost the eye.

Edwards expects to bring the all the charges to Shingles the grand jury in a couple weeks. Once the grand jury acts, he could seek to have bail revoked, he said.