Right Next Door: Dan Nesser, Bail Bondsman

01/05/2016 03:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Think all bail bondsmen look like Eddie Moscone, the greasy, gruff, foulmouthed character played by Joe Pantoliano in the hit 1988 comedy Midnight Run? You're mistaken. Think of them as vigilantes and renegades? Incorrect again -- unless you've got Dan Nesser in mind, anyway.

2016-01-05-1452014410-7189850-fv_120315_rndbb00006lores.jpg
Bail bondsman Dan Nesser photographed outside the Van Nuys Courthouse, Van Nuys, Ca. © Ian Spanier Photography 2016

Nesser has been a bondsman in the Los Angeles area for more than 15 years. When necessary, he'll use force, he says, but he prides himself on being a different from his peers. He is empowered to kick down doors, apprehend and handcuff bail jumpers, but he's adamant that he genuinely wants to help people in trouble, not just make a quick buck.

The money can be good: L.A. bonds average $25,000, of which the bondsman collects 10 percent. Yet the vast majority of criminals Nesser deals with suffer from drug addiction or mental illness (or both), and he wants, whenever possible, to help them escape their demons.

One illustrative example: Working in the vicinity of Hollywood, Nesser of course encounters the occasional troubled celebrity. One memorable run-in occurred in 2008, when he bailed out Stephen Glover, better known as Steve-O from Jackass. Shortly afterward, recognizing the depth of their friend's addictions, the rest of the Jackass crew staged an intervention -- and Steve-O has been sober ever since.

That hints at the paradox of Nesser's work: He says he'd love it if one day California put him out of business altogether -- taking his 10 percent fee and using it to fund programs and other treatment for the kinds of people who skip bail. For now, though, Nesser will stick with it, greeting each new case as the quiet bondsman with the big heart -- a far cry from the antic, unfeeling likes of Eddie Moscone.