Johnny Bobbitt Jr., jailed since last month on fraud, conspiracy, and theft charges in a $400,000 GoFundMe scheme, was ordered released Friday to await trial.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mark Tarantino told Bobbitt he could go free from the Burlington County jail as long as he complies with a series of conditions.
Among them is a requirement that Bobbitt, 35, attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times a week and stay drug-free. He must also submit to drug testing and avoid contact with his co-defendants, Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico.
The three are accused of setting up a fradulent GoFundMe campaign in November 2017 by concocting a false story to prey on the sympathies of donors who believed the money would be used to help Bobbitt get off the streets.
Bobbitt, along with McClure and D’Amico, are accused of duping more than 14,000 donors when the story they told went viral.
Prosecutors say the three lied when they said Bobbitt had spent his last $20 to buy gasoline for McClure when she ran out last November while alone, at night, on an I-95 off ramp in Philadelphia, where Bobbitt was panhandling.
The Good Samaritan tale spread when the three appeared on national television. They told donors the funds they raised would be used to buy Bobbitt a house and ensure his financial future.
Prosecutors say McClure and D’Amico squandered most of the money on vacations, gambling, and designer handbags. Bobbitt received about $75,000, authorities say, and spent some of that money on drugs. He later sued the couple and accused them of stealing the money that donors intended to go to him. That got the attention of law enforcement and led to the criminal charges.
McClure, 28, and D’Amico, 39, who have since split up, are out on bail and are expected to have their first hearing in a Burlington County courtroom on Dec. 24. The couple previously lived together in Florence, N.J.
After Bobbitt’s court hearing Friday in Mount Holly, his attorney, Burlington County Deputy Public Defender John Keesler, said his client was expected to return to the apartment where he had been living before his arrest. Bobbitt told a judge last month he was living in Fishtown.
Keesler declined to provide details on whether Bobbitt is living alone or with others. “He’s happy to be out,” Keesler said.
In court Friday, Bobbitt was upbeat.
“Yes, sir,” Bobbitt said when the judge asked whether he understood that if he violates any of the conditions he could again be imprisoned. “I want you be successful with the terms that have been imposed,” the judge said.
Keesler said he would seek to have Bobbitt’s case diverted to Drug Court, an alternative court process for drug addicts.
To do that, Keesler said, Bobbitt would have to plead guilty to one or more charges and would have to get the prosecutor’s approval.
Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Saurabh Singal confirmed the prosecutor is reviewing the Drug Court application. “It depends on a legal and clinical analysis” that would determine whether Bobbitt is eligible, he said.
Unless Bobbitt is approved for Drug Court, his next court appearance will be Feb. 6.