(VAN NUYS, Calif.) — A cluster of news crews focused intently on a somber-looking family at the Van Nuys Criminal Courthouse on the morning of Oct. 26. The subject of scrutiny: the Bohm family who was there to support Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, charged with four counts of murder and four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, after a Malibu crash on the Pacific Coast Highway that claimed the lives of four Pepperdine University women.
Though Bohm’s arraignment had occurred the previous day and his bail had been lowered from $8 million to $4 million, he was back in court, his lawyer pushing for a further reduction. By 8:45 a.m., Bohm, garbed in a safety smock and restrained by handcuffs, stepped into the room, and silence settled as Judge Eric Harmon made his entrance.
Bohm’s attorney, Michael Kraut, dressed sharply and exuding confidence, raised two issues. First, he cited threats received by the Bohm family on social media and requested a camera ban in the courtroom. The judge allowed media presence for the time being, noting the public’s right to be informed.
The Bohm family’s affluence was evident from their designer clothes and accessories, yet they appeared exhausted. They whispered among themselves, and the emotional toll of the events was clear. One of the Bohm sisters sat between each parent. Fraser Bohm, looking starkly different from his photos shared on social media, still seemed in shock. He did not look at his family in the courtroom behind him.
As the proceeding paused, others waiting to have their cases heard grew impatient behind the doors of the closed and crowded courtroom. Security explained that the day’s schedule was behind and the other cases would still be heard but everyone needed to wait outside.
Back in session, the topic shifted to a bail review based on the Humphrey hearing, a process that evaluates a defendant’s bail capability. It is against the California constitution to hold someone on criminal charges for the sole reason of not affording bail.
In arguing for his client’s pretrial release, Kraut emphasized recent video evidence. “Today is the day the narrative changes on this case.” He added, “My client had zero alcohol, zero substances, was fully cooperative with law enforcement…he was a victim of a road rage incident at a stop light prior to the crash.” As he requested a bail reduction, Kraut said, “Mr. Bohm wants justice for the victims” and alluded that the third-party aggressor should be sitting in court.
Kraut and the judge went back and forth on the bail issue for almost 20 minutes. Kraut argued that there is nothing stating that a bail review cannot take place within 24 hours of arraignment. Politely, Harmon pivoted to Marsy’s Law, which became an addition to the Victim’s Bill of Rights in the California Constitution. Marsy’s Law provides protection to the victims and their families by requiring the court to give ample time and notice of all public proceedings, including a bail review hearing.
The defense argued that the bail be reduced as the family cannot afford the $4 million, and from the new video evidence, the maximum bail should be $400,000.
Yet, Judge Harmon, maintaining a steadfast demeanor, clarified his role was solely to consider the feasibility of a bail review that day. Ultimately, he held his ground, rejecting any immediate bail review.
His tone was dry and unwavering given the significance of the case.
“No one wants a rushed determination with the gravity of the situation,” Harmon said.
After the hearing, members of the press jostled to share an elevator with Kraut, who seemed at ease, even cracking jokes. Outside, though, his demeanor shifted. The poised attorney criticized the sheriff’s department, asserting they’d hastily charged Bohm without thorough investigation and begrudgingly pushed this case off to the attorneys.
A reporter from KNX pressed Kraut on specifics of the newly obtained video evidence, but Kraut deflected. He criticized Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón for perpetuating a false narrative on the case specifics.
“Mr. Gascón is running for reelection, and this is a flashy case unfortunately…but Mr. Gascón has an ethical duty as a prosecutor to only speak on what he knows…”
Kraut shifted to praising Judge Harmon for his credibility and his respect for him. “[Judge Harmon] is well reasoned, I think he was wrong on the law on whether he could hear Humphrey’s today but what is important is that he wants to make sure that Mr. Bohm gets a fair hearing…he also wants to make sure that the victim’s rights are sustained and I have to respect that.”
On Oct. 28, Bohm posted the $4 million bail, and Dec. 15 remains the date for Mr. Bohm’s preliminary trial hearing.