A New Jersey judge ordered the formerly homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. to be released Friday from the Burlington County Jail, where he has been held on fraud, conspiracy and theft charges in a $400,000 GoFundMe scam.
Bobbitt seemed upbeat and said “Yes, sir” to state Superior Court Judge Mark Tarantino when he announced in a Mount Holly courtroom that Bobbitt would be freed pending trial as long as he attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times a week, submits to random drug testing and meets several other conditions of release.
Bobbitt’s attorney, Burlington County Deputy Public Defender John Keesler, said Bobbitt, 35, would return to the apartment in Philadelphia where he had been staying before his November arrest.
Just before noon Friday Bobbitt had left the jail and was expected to return to Philadelphia.
The judge said that if Bobbitt violates any of the terms of his release, he would be returned to jail.
Bobbitt, along with Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, is charged with fabricating a story last year to prey on the sympathies of more than 14,000 donors who contributed more than $402,000 in the belief that the money would be spent to help Bobbitt, a then-homeless drug addict, get off the street. Prosecutors say the three lied when they said Bobbitt had spent his last $20 to buy gasoline for McClure when she ran out of gas last November when she was alone at night, her car stalled on an I-95 ramp in Philadelphia.
Prosecutors say the three concocted the story and created a GoFundMe that went viral. Their Good Samaritan tale inspired donors across the country and beyond, and Bobbitt, McClure and D’Amico appeared on television to share their feel-good story. They told donors the funds they raised would be used to buy Bobbitt a house and ensure his financial future. Instead, prosecutors say, McClure and D’Amico spent most of the money on vacations, gambling excursions and designer handbags.
Bobbitt received about $75,000, prosecutors say and spent some of that money on drugs. He later sued the couple and accused them of squandering money donors intended to go to him. That got the attention of law enforcement and led to the criminal charges.
McClure and D’Amico, who at the time of the scam lived together in Florence Township, N.J., are out on bail awaiting trial. McClure, 28, and D’Amico, 39, are due back in court in Burlington County Dec. 24 for a first appearance on the fraud charges.
Bobbitt’s lawyer has said he will seek to have Bobbitt’s case diverted to Drug Court, an alternative court process for drug addicts.
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