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Authorities: Inmate impersonates judge over phone in attempt to get out of jail

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James Eagle. (Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - You might not believe just how far one inmate went to try to get out of jail.

It took nerve for an inmate in the Hamilton County Jail to pretend he was a judge over the phone, but he allegedly did just that.

There are recordings from inside the jail of an inmate posing as a judge. Authorities say his impersonations didn't stop there.

On April 10, 23-year-old James Eagle was arrested after an accident on West Kemper Road. Among other things, he was charged with leaving the scene and stealing a license plate to put on his car afterward.

Once behind bars, he quickly came up with a plan to get out of jail. An affidavit says on that day, Eagle made several recorded phone calls from the jail to the clerk's office that were forwarded to pre-trial services.

Posing as Judge Richard Bernat, Eagle told the staff to give Eagle “O.R.” bonds. That means no cash, just his promise to return for court.

The Clerk of Courts office said it did everything was it supposed to do by contacting the sheriff’s office and the judge about the calls. The judge said it wasn't him on the phone.

But the next day, even though people knew about the phony calls, no one showed up to talk to him about it. Even the judge didn't mention it.

"I don't think anyone did anything wrong, we have to improve communication, be prompt and timely, shore that up, at the end of the day his scheme did not work,” said the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office’s Mike Robinson.

It didn't work because he didn't get out on “O.R.” bond. Eagle got out after paying 10 percent of a $5,000 bond on the felony charge for stealing the license plate.

But, then, there was an encore performance.

On Friday, a detective went to sign warrants against Eagle for the “phony judge call caper.” After he left, the Warrants Department got a call. According to an affidavit, it was Eagle saying he was the detective and the warrants were a mistake. That worked for a while because the warrants were entered in the system.

"Mr. Eagle is not as slick as he thinks he is … once apprehended he faces three additional charges,” said Robinson, charges that include impersonating a police officer.

On the original charges, he might have spent a few months in prison. Now, it could be a few years.

There is a $1,000 Wheel of Justice reward for information about where Eagle is hiding. It is paid out through CrimeStoppers. Call the hotline at 513-352-3040. Callers are identified by code numbers, not names.

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