Dothan judge didn’t know this man murdered. Here’s why.

Houston County Judge Benjamin Lewis advised Ralph Perez Coleman of his rights, appointed him an attorney, and left intact his $60,000 bond, an amount that complies with state guidelines. Lewis was unaware of Coleman’s 2016 murder charge.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 6:44 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -A Dothan man with a violent past appeared before a judge on Thursday regarding a rape charge that he faces.

A Dothan man faces charges related to a bizarre rape allegation.

Houston County Judge Benjamin Lewis advised Ralph Perez Coleman of his rights, appointed him an attorney, and left intact his $60,000 appearance bond, an amount that complies with state guidelines.

Lewis was unaware of Coleman’s 2016 murder involvement.

Except in certain cases, a defendant’s juvenile record cannot be divulged, even to judges. Had Lewis been aware of Coleman’s past, it would have given him grounds to increase bond and put additional restrictions on Coleman’s release.

Through acquaintances of murder victim William “Phatso” Hawkins, WTVY News 4 confirmed Coleman’s murder arrest. Unlike police and court personnel, journalists are not bound by juvenile privacy laws.

Coleman is among five teens--he and two others were 15--who masterminded a plan to rob Hawkins, shot inside his Collier Street home. They were caught because several wore ankle monitors related to prior juvenile arrests, police said.

Of those five murder suspects, only Coleman never lost his juvenile status.

Less than three years later police in north Alabama found Coleman driving a stolen Mercedes, with an estimated value of $50,000.

Per court documents, he told officers he purchased that car for $10.

It is not clear how he got out of a juvenile lockup before taking that vehicle.

Following his arrest, and behind bars in the Montgomery, Coleman requested youthful offender status on the stolen car charge that would have also kept that case off his adult record. Ultimately, he was placed on three years’ probation.

In September 2021 Coleman could no longer be in the juvenile justice system and returned to the streets because he turned 21.

By December he had been arrested again, this time in Dothan on a misdemeanor menacing charge.

Then last month Dothan officers charged him with Rape First Degree, alleging that Coleman violently assaulted a 19-year-old woman.

After running from the rape charge for weeks, Florida authorities captured him on Monday, claiming they found two handguns in his possession.

Despite the seriousness of his charges, Coleman would likely have posted that $60,000 bond and been released from the Houston County Jail.

But not now, thanks to a judge 300 miles away.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Charles B. Elliot ordered him returned to Decatur, Alabama on that stolen car charge, seeking to revoke his probation.

Elliot issued an alias writ of arrest and ordered him held without bond and who, unlike Lewis, had authority because probation revocations are among a handful of allegations in which bond is not a constitutional right.

Coleman will stay locked up---at least for now.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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