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Hsu's bail set at $5 million cash

A Colorado judge has set bail at $5 million in cash for Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu on a charge of grand theft.
Democratic Fundraiser
Norman Hsu, who skipped a court date last week in Redwood City, Calif.'s San Mateo County Superior Court, now faces a Sept. 19th hearing.Paul Sakuma / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Colorado judge has set bail at $5 million in cash for Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu on a charge of grand theft.

Hsu, wanted in California on a 1991 grand theft case, appeared by video hookup at a hearing Thursday, one week after skipping a court date in Redwood City, Calif., and showing up in Grand Junction on an Amtrak train so sick he had to be hospitalized.

Authorities haven't disclosed the nature of his illness, but he was released from the hospital on Wednesday and booked into the Mesa County jail.

His next court date is Sept. 19. His attorneys said Thursday that he won't fight extradition to California.

Other potential problems
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger had asked Judge Bruce Raaum for an unprecedented $50 million bail, noting that Hsu had skipped out on the hearing in California despite posting a $2 million bond.

Hautzinger told the judge he had been informed that Hsu was "probably involved" in a scheme involving $33 million and about 50 investors in Orange County, Calif. He gave no details.

Hautzinger also cited an investigation in New York into whether Hsu was involved in the alleged misappropriation of millions of dollars from an investment fund.

"Two million wasn't enough to keep Mr. Hsu from running," Raaum said. "We'll see if $5 million will do it."

Hsu's lawyer, Eric Elliff, said the $50 million request was ridiculous.

Hsu wore a yellow jail shirt for Thursday's hearing. He blinked frequently and nodded, answering "Yes" when asked if he understood the California charge and saying "Thank you" in a low voice when the hearing ended.

Democratic donations
Hsu raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and others until the recent disclosure of his 1991 case turned him into a major embarrassment.

Hsu was a leading money "bundler" for Clinton, earning the title of "HillRaiser" for his efforts at collecting donations. Her campaign is returning $850,000 in donations linked to Hsu and promising stricter scrutiny of donors.

His saga took another strange twist with the revelation that he had mailed a suicide note last week to the New York office of the Innocence Project, a legal group that helps prove prisoners' innocence through DNA testing.

A person who saw the letter said the note explicitly stated that he "intended to commit suicide." The person declined to reveal the exact phrasing but said it was not rambling in nature.

The individual spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Innocence Project officials would not provide specific details of the letter, but spokesman Eric Ferrero said, "We were all concerned for his safety. We knew we needed to try to reach him right away. We wanted to make sure he was safe."

After failing to reach Hsu by cell phone, Innocence Project officials then tried to contact his attorney and faxed a copy of the letter to the California attorney general's office, which is handling the case.

Details of the letter were first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

Hsu has been a benefactor of the Innocence Project.