Judgement & Sentencing

by Bruce McEwen, September 15, 2011

Some of the sentencings couldn’t go forward this week because either the judges were missing or paperwork was late getting to the attorneys.

Adam Degrenier’s fate was postponed because Judge William Lamb wasn’t present. The rule is that the judge who takes the plea must do the sentencing, unless there’s an Arbuckle waiver in place allowing another judge to do it. In Mr. Degrenier’s case there was no waiver so Judge Richard Freedman couldn’t drop the gavel on him.

The same was the case for Steven Mace.

As for Sheila Sopp — her lawyer had just received the probation report and hadn’t had time to go over it with Ms. Sopp.

The same was true for Douglas Santos.

It would appear that these delays will continue until the Courts and the Service Employees Internatioanl Union come to an agreement on pay and benefit cuts. Court staff make the place work. When they're unhappy we have what we had last week, a kind of judicial gridlock.

On Monday the union stopped work completely with a countywide walk-out at noon.

Some of the cases went through, however.

Krystie L. Lewis got seven long years for the manufacture of methamphetamine. But this wasn’t her first trip to the pen. She’d been there on similar charges before.

Judge Freeborn asked Ms. Lewis to come on down out of the jury box to sit with her lawyer, Bert Schlosser, at the defense table. When she was comfortable, the judge blandly continued with her dispatch to the state pen.

“I realize this sentence was stipulated to by both parties, but I’d like to point out that I’ve received some letters regarding Ms. Lewis’ difficulties and her wish, as well as the wishes of her family, to get herself sorted out. I realize there was some hope on the defense that she would be allowed to go into treatment rather than the Department of Corrections, but I am afraid that kind of program will have to follow the prison term.”

Mr. Schlosser said, “I’ve presented my arguments why her sentence should be reduced so she can get into rehab, and while this is a stipulated sentence and we are willing to go along with it, I must commend my client for her efforts. At least, your honor, we would ask if she could be granted two weeks to get her personal things in order before she begins this sentence. She was picked up at work, her car left in the parking lot, where it was later stolen and subsequently destroyed. Her clothing and personal effects were left in a camper, and were stolen, destroyed or otherwise disposed of. She requests two weeks to get what is left of her things in order.”

Judge Freeborn turned to Deputy DA Katherine Houston for comment.

“The People are opposed,” Ms. Houston said.

Freeborn said, “Almost all her life she’s been involved in criminality of one kind or another. She’s been to prison before for manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine and I feel that in the interest of the public safety that the request will have to be denied. Anything further?”

“No, your honor.”

“The court then will accept the guilty plea, and given the circumstances I’ll follow the recommendations to impose the aggravated term, the only mitigating factor being the early plea, which is to her credit. She’s right to face the music without a lot of trouble. So the sentence will be for a total of seven years in the state prison, a fine of $1400, $190 lab fee, $179 for the drug program fee, $690 for the probation report, $30 conviction fee, $25 screening fee, $20 security fee, $100 for the victim’s restitution fund. How much credit does she have for time served?

It was 172 days.

“In addition, Ms. Lewis, you’ll be eligible to have the prison term reduced for good behavior.”

Mr. Schlosser had one more thing. His client wanted her “actual” name of Krystie Lewis-Bates on the paperwork.

This was done to her satisfaction and Ms, Krystie Lewis-Bates, a drug addict who rightly belongs in a hospital, stood to await her first days of another long, unproductive stay in state prison.

Scott Dean Anderson had worked out a plea to petty theft.

Richard J. McClam pled to petty theft, but he didn’t get as good a deal as Scott Anderson got. Mr. McClam would have to do 60 days. He pled to two counts of stealing stuff, one theft occurring on August 5th the other on August 11th.

James M. Gallagher got stopped for driving on a suspended license. This used to be about a $1400 fine, the same as cooking meth, but in recent weeks it went up to $2518. State and local governments are trying to beat back bankruptcy through radical increases in fines and fees. Add to this all the incidental fees, the $150 public defender fee, the $100 victim restitution fund fee, the $30 conviction fee, $25 screening fee, $20 security fee — another $350 — and it’s easy to see how a guy like Gallagher might just give up driving altogether.

Attorney Bart Kronfeld came over from the coast to enter a plea on an abalone violation. Mr. Cho Chin would plead guilty to taking one ab over the limit. The fine was $1271, plus $114 for each ab over the limit (in this case only one), the Fish & Game conservation fee was $78.50, there was the usual victim’s restitution fund fee of $100, $30 conviction fee, $25 screening fee, $20 security fee, and a $10 citation fee. Judge Henderson couldn’t resist saying “we can nibble Mr. Cho to death with these fees” which got a few bursts of comic relief from the crowd.

Every day (or at least the days when the court is operating at full throttle) the courts rack up sums like this from nine different departments, eight to ten hours a day. This was only a sample of a few cases in two departments. Where does all the money go?

To the judges and the new courthouse, probably.

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