A Santa Barbara Superior Court judge on Friday rejected prosecutors' request that he raise the bail to $5 million for a Santa Barbara man accused of rape, false imprisonment and other charges involving his wife and stepdaughter.
Prosecutors asked for the increase out of fear that Richard Douglas Box, 69, could be a flight risk and potentially harm the alleged victims if he is released.
Judge Barry Taylor ruled to keep Box's bail at $2 million, instead of raising it to $5 million as the prosecution had asked.
Box was in court Friday morning, after turning himself into police Monday.
Santa Barbara police responded last week to a report of a disturbance at Box's home in the 200 block of Las Ondas Drive on the Mesa.
A sexual-assault investigation commenced, and Box is facing charges of assault with the intent to commit certain felonies, false imprisonment by force, rape, intimidation of a witness or victim by force, assault with a deadly weapon, peeping with a concealed camera, battery and violation of a court order.
Details in court revealed that the investigation surrounds alleged crimes against Box's wife and his 15-year-old stepdaughter.
He has entered a not guilty plea to the charges.
Box, who remained in custody at Santa Barbara County Jail, will return to court Jan. 3 for a preliminary hearing.
During Friday's hearing, two witnesses were called to the stand, including police Detective Brian Larson, who interviewed both of the women in the case.
After Box's arrest was reported in the news, Larson said he received several calls from people expressing concern that he was a flight risk.
One man told Larson that Box owned a home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and stayed there for three to six months each year.
Several cases in Box's past also came up during the hearing.
One that Larson discovered was linked to a case in which he allegedly twice molested a 12-year-old Long Beach girl who lived in an apartment building he owned in 2012. Box was arrested in connection with that incident but never convicted.
Another case involved Box allegedly making threats against an insurance claim representative after he was in a traffic collision, and he allegedly told the woman he would "get a machine gun and shoot everyone in your office."
The police were called and armed guards were deployed at the insurance office.
After Larson spoke about each case, Box's attorney, Steve Balash, reminded the court that his client had never been convicted of any of the crimes.
Larson interviewed the alleged victims, who both expressed fear for their safety about Box being released on bail. He also said he had more than 10 calls from people who had concerns about Box's "disturbing behavior."
Balash called to the stand Keith Lawler, a friend of Box and a retired United Airlines pilot, who would often allow Box to travel with him on discounted tickets he purchased through his work. The men went together to Thailand, where Box met his now-wife.
Box and his wife were married in Florida in 2011, and Lawler said he felt the wife was "unstable" and recalled arriving at Box's Las Ondas home one day to find that she had trashed the residence. He said he urged his friend to get out of the relationship.
When prosecutor Paula Waldman pressed Lawler on whether he thought his friend was a public-safety risk, he initially responded no.
Waldman said Box had repeatedly molested his 15-year-old stepdaughter, and asked Lawler again if he thought Box would be a risk if that were true.
"That would probably be scary," Lawler said.
Waldman also said Box had approached the girl, saying "your mom's not home, let's have sex" and when the girl refused, raced after her and put her in a choke hold.
Box had repeatedly raped his wife, she said, and asked Lawler pointedly if Box had gone to Thailand to find a bride.
Lawler said no, adding that he pitched the idea of going to the country as a cheap vacation spot.
"I said, 'It's a good place, half the price of the U.S.' I said, 'It's a good place to have a good time,'" he told Waldman.
He said Box did not own property in Thailand, but that he had heard his wife did.
Taylor stated he was concerned for the safety of the women and said that if Box were released, he would not be living in the house or anywhere near them.
"These charges are extremely serious," he said.
Waldman argued that Box had the "mindset of a pervert" and preyed on victims who needed the court's protection.
The women came from Thailand, had limited language skills or financial access, limiting their ability to reach out for help against someone like Box, she said.
"He preys on vulnerable people, he doesn't prey on people like Keith Lawler," she told the court.
Waldman called the Long Beach arrest "more than troubling," and said she thought the case might be looked at again now that there were other alleged victims in Santa Barbara.
"I urge the court not to take the risk ... He raped his wife, he was sexually violent with her," she told the judge. "I'm asking you to help keep these two victims safe."
Taylor ultimately denied the request and kept the bail amount at $2 million.