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Steven Rothschild released on bail to his Sonoma home

How does bail work?

The court sets the amount of bail required for the defendant’s release. The defendant can come up with the entire bail amount or work with a licensed bail bond who will guarantee payment of the full bail amount to the court if the defendant does not show up for all scheduled appearances. These providers typically charge 10 percent (in Rothschild’s case $200,000) of the set bail and the bail bond company keeps that fee, whether the defendant is found guilty or not. The balance of the bail amount can typically be covered with liens against real estate and assets. Bail bonding is a big business, and a competitive one. There are 40 companies advertising their services on the wall of the jail in Santa Rosa.

Steven Rothschild, 72, accused of murdering his wife, Juanita Rothschild, 67, on the evening of Aug. 4, returned to his Boyes Hot Springs home earlier this week, having made bail.

Rothschild had been in custody at the Main Adult Detention Facility in Santa Rosa until his release at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Javier Vaca of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has been assigned to the case. Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney Stephen Gallenson represents Rothschild.

According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Rothschild called 911 just before midnight on Aug. 4. He told the dispatcher that he and his wife had been in a fight and she was dead. Deputies and emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the condo.

Deputies found Juanita Rothschild unresponsive on the living room couch. According to a Sheriff’s Office statement, she appeared to be seriously beaten but no obvious weapons were found. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

Some of the couple’s neighbors in their peaceful Springs neighborhood are not pleased that Rothschild is back in his house, and neither is Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell.

“We strictly objected to him being released on bail,” said Staebell when reached by phone on Wednesday. “The court granted it against our strong objections.”

Staebell explained, however, that the state is only required to deny bail in cases that could result in the death penalty or life without parole.

Staebaell added that Rothschild has been released “with no restrictions or considerations,” which means no ankle bracelet, no house arrest and no travel restrictions.

When reached for comment, Gallenson's law partner Chris Andrian said that Judge Robert La Forge had to grant bail.

"Mr. Rothschild was entitled to bail as a matter of right in this case," he said. "It was not at the judge's discretion. The only discretion he had was the amount, and he set a high bail. And the DA did not ask for any conditions or restrictions on Mr. Rothschild."

Santa Rosa bail bondsman Rod Buntjer has been in the business for 40 years and he confirmed public documents that named his company as working with Rothschild to secure his release. Buntjer will not comment on specific clients, but he explained that he works with clients and their family and friends to arrange for collateral to cover the entire bond, and clients pay a 10 percent fee to the bail bond company for their services.

“Our contract with each defendant varies somewhat - we can ask for our own travel restrictions or require check-ins,” he said.

Buntjer said that industrywide, 98 percent of defendants who use a bail bondsman make their court appearances. Included within that number, however, are defendants who need to be brought in with the help of a fugitive recovery agent – a bounty hunter.

“In about 30 or 40 percent of our cases, we have to use a fugitive recovery agent but the public should feel good because we do find them and it doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” he said.

Buntjer explained that if a defendant does not show up for a court appearance, the bail bond company has 180 days to turn the complete bond into cash by liquidating the collateral property, selling assets and the like.

How does bail work?

The court sets the amount of bail required for the defendant’s release. The defendant can come up with the entire bail amount or work with a licensed bail bond who will guarantee payment of the full bail amount to the court if the defendant does not show up for all scheduled appearances. These providers typically charge 10 percent (in Rothschild’s case $200,000) of the set bail and the bail bond company keeps that fee, whether the defendant is found guilty or not. The balance of the bail amount can typically be covered with liens against real estate and assets. Bail bonding is a big business, and a competitive one. There are 40 companies advertising their services on the wall of the jail in Santa Rosa.

An officer at the Sonoma County Superior Court said that neighbors who are concerned about or wish to complain about Rothschild’s release should contact Sheriff’s Valley substation at 996-9495.

Staebell said that he doesn’t expect for the coroner’s autopsy results on Juanita Rothschild to be released to the public but that he expected the cause of death would be discussed in an upcoming preliminary hearing.

Rothschild is due back in court on Wednesday, Sept. 13, to enter a plea.

[This article has been edited to correct the spelling of Rod Buntjer’s name and to make it clear that he did not speak about his client, only about the bail bond process. We have also added a comment from Steven Rothschild's lawyer.]

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.