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Bail set at $1 million for man accused of plotting murder to cover up payroll scheme

Attorneys for Jerrelle Smith successfully challenged the no-bond hold for first-degree murder suspects.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — An Adams County District Court judge on Friday set bail at $1 million cash only for the man whose attorneys successfully argued to the state Supreme Court that defendants charged with first-degree murder must be eligible for bail in the absence of capital punishment in Colorado.

Jerrelle Smith is charged with:

  • First-degree murder -after deliberation
  • Theft - $20,000 to $100,000
  • Colorado Organized Crime Act - pattern of racketeering

"He is the person, based on the evidence, who plotted to kill Ryan Dillard over multiple days out in the open, and for what? Money," prosecutors said Friday as they argued for a $2 million bail.

Smith was the mastermind in a payroll scheme in which tens of thousands of dollars were siphoned from a company and pocketed by Smith and his friends, according to an arrest affidavit from the Aurora Police Department. Their greed led to the murder of Ryan Dillard on Oct. 20, 2021, according to prosecutors.

On that day, Aurora Police officers responded to 1700 Tower Road for a reported shooting. When they arrived, they found shell casings and a crashed vehicle nearby. Inside the vehicle, they found Dillard, who had been shot several times.

According to prosecutors, Michael Poydras waited for Dillard to drive up and then ran to his vehicle and opened fire. He was convicted of first-degree this week and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killing.

RELATED: Man found guilty of killing King Soopers supervisor outside of his workplace in Adams County

Dillard had just been hired weeks before his murder to replace a supervisor at the King Soopers Distribution Center at 1861 Tower Road. As Dillard was transitioning into his new role, it came to light that some of the employees of the facility were running a payroll scheme, the 17th District Attorney's Office said.

They said Poydras had previously worked at the center and was still on the payroll as part of the scam but no longer worked there.

In court Friday, prosecutors alleged that while Poydras had carried out the killing, it was Smith who ran the payroll scam and planned the killing. Court documents show that Smith collected money from the payments to the former employees. One person told investigators that they were paid $2,000 per week on a prepaid debit card and would withdraw $1,000 and give it to Smith. Deputy District Attorney Danny Paulson argued Smith's payroll scheme netted him between $15,000 to $20,000 a month, and that three months before the murder he had allegedly already collected as much as $750,000.

Cellphone data indicates that Smith was likely conducting surveillance on Dillard's home on the morning of his murder, the arrest affidavit says.

As his case moved through court, Smith's attorneys challenged him being held without bail pending trial. In 2020, Colorado lawmakers did away with the death penalty in the state. Smith's lawyers argued that no-bond holds were specific to crimes punishable by death, and because that was no longer a possibility, Smith should be eligible for bail.

In June, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with Smith and as a result found that those charged with first-degree murder on or after July 1, 2020, must be eligible for bail.

RELATED: Attorney for teen accused in rock-throwing death case is challenging client's $2 million bond

During Smith's bond hearing Friday, his defense team asked for a $50,000 bail and argued that setting a high bail was essentially equal to a no-bond hold. Attorney Rachel Lanzen argued Smith has a constitutional right to pre-trial release. She argued Smith remained working at the company after the murder, before his arrest. She argued Smith didn't flee during the seven months between the murder and his arrest in the case.

"Liberty should be the norm," Lanzen said, calling a researcher in the effectiveness of cash bond to testify in the hearing. 

Prosecutors requested a bail of $2 million and argued that Smith likely had "substantial proceeds" from the payroll scam. 

"He didn't pull the trigger, but he is the one who plotted to kill Mr. Dillard for several days," Paulson said. 

The judge ultimately said he thought the $1 million bail was appropriate.

University of Denver law professor Ian Farrell said these higher cash bonds have become common since the Supreme Court ruled on Smith's case initially.

“There's been a flurry of very large bonds being given, which are the effective or de facto equivalent of not giving a bond at all,” Farrell said. “So the spirit of this understanding that the no bond rule doesn't apply to non-capital cases. I don't think he's being honored.”

Farrell said the right to bail is not a new thing. 

"It's not something that progressives and are pushing, and we're trying to get the rest of society to come along with them," he said. "It's something that's been in the Colorado Constitution forever, it's just that people haven't been aware of it.”

“The primary purpose of a bond is not to put it so high that the defendant can't make the bond. The primary purpose of a bond is not to keep the person in pretrial detention. The primary purpose of a bond is to have them have enough skin in the game, that when they are led out, they are incentivized to turn up.”

Smith is next due in court for an arraignment Sept. 8.

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