Devonte Amerson will spend Christmas with his family.
Five years and nine months after his arrest on murder charges, Amerson was released on bond Monday night from the Hays County Jail, where he was met by his seven-year-old son, Kyze, his mother, Chelesta, and members of the Hays County social justice group Mano Amiga.
Amerson’s attorney, David Sergi, does not want him speaking to the press. But Sergi relayed a message from his client to the family of Justin Gage, the man Hays Count has accused him of killing: “Devonte asked me to say that though he was incarcerated for almost six years for a crime he did not commit, he holds no ill will towards Justin Gage’s family,” Sergi said. “It was the first thing he told me when he found out he was getting out for sure. He said, ‘I wish them peace.’”
Amerson’s release came after his bond was reduced from $250,000 to $50,000 at a hearing on Dec. 6. Chelesta Amerson joined 50 of her son’s supporters at the Hays County courthouse after the new bond was announced and thanked those who have worked to free him. “It feels absolutely amazing,” Chelesta said. “Everything that we’ve been praying for and working for is finally coming to pass. And at this moment right now I’m happy with Hays County.”
Hays County law enforcement arrested Amerson and his childhood friend, Cyrus Gray, for what they characterized as a robbery gone wrong in March 2018. Both men were unable to raise the money to make bail and, like Amerson, Gray spent years in jail waiting for his trial. When it arrived in the summer of 2022 it demonstrated that the men were being held on questionable evidence. Prosecutors could present no eyewitnesses, video, fingerprints, or DNA connecting Gray to the murder. The case was declared a mistrial after four days of jury deliberations. Gray’s bond was reduced four months later and he was released. This July, D.A. Kelly Higgins dropped the murder charges.
As Amerson’s Dec. 6 bond reduction hearing got underway, Sergi spoke with Higgins and the D.A.’s whispered remark could be heard in the front rows of the courtroom: “Let’s work something out.” Fifteen minutes later the attorneys presented an agreement knocking the bond down to $50,000, allowing a $5,000 surety to be posted for Amerson’s release. “The D.A did the right thing here,” Sergi told the Chronicle on Tuesday. “He looked at the case and decided on an agreement that I think does justice. Devonte has to have an ankle monitor, he has to stay in Hays County, but he can work and he can help us get ready for trial. He can do the normal things people do. He can get to know his son.”
At the Dec. 6 gathering, Mano Amiga’s Eric Martinez announced that the group had raised $15,000 for Amerson’s defense – all of it spent already – and that they would put up the $5,000 necessary for his release. “We truly, wholeheartedly appreciate every single one of you for coming out and expressing your support,” Martinez said. “But this isn’t the end. We are still going to continue raising funds for Devonte. If this does have to go to trial it will be quite expensive.”
After Martinez spoke, Devonte’s two grandmothers expressed their thanks to the group. Pastor Darius Todd of Abundant Life Church announced that church members will house Amerson until his case is resolved. Sergi thanked Mano Amiga for marshaling the financial and moral resources necessary for the releases of Amerson and Gray and said his team feels the community’s support.
Cyrus Gray – Devonte’s co-defendant whose charges were finally dropped after he’d spent four years in jail – did not address the group but went from person to person speaking in his quiet voice. “Since I’ve been out, my main focus has been to make sure Devonte gets home to his family,” he told the Chronicle. “So this is a blessing.”
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