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Seven-Year Sentence Week

It was the week of the seven-year sentence – everybody got seven years, whether the crime was a burglary or a homicide. Didn’t matter. Dylan Beck was up first and she/he got seven years for a taking a vehicle without permission, passing stolen checks and burglarizing a house. Beck had two co-defendants, Jeanette Long, sentenced a week earlier, and Matthew Zwicky, who pled to his part the following day. 

Beck’s lawyer, Kevin Davenport, had arranged a deal with Deputy DA Beth Norman to get the execution of the prison sentence suspended and enter Beck into the Friendship House rehab facility in San Francisco, a year-long program. 

“Seven years in prison, that’s the stakes,” Mr. Davenport said. “More so, the rest of his life is at stake, and he realizes it’s all on Dylan to succeed.” 

“Ms. Beck is all excited about turning her life around with this meth program,” Ms. Norman said. “But nobody’s gonna help her this time. A friend arose and brought this about, but she needs to stop taking advantage of people, and blaming others for her problems, because after today that won’t work. She needs to complete this Friendship House program successfully; and she needs to understand that we will not balk at sending her to prison if she walks away.” 

Beck had something like 20 misdemeanors besides the first-degree burglary, and the other felony. 


“Mr. Beck,” Judge John Behnke said [there seemed to be some reluctance on the part of the defense lawyer and the judge, both men, to adapt to calling these gender bending millennials by their preferred pronouns, whereas the prosecutor, a woman, had no problem with calling him a her, “Mr. Beck,” continued the judge, “used a ruse to get the homeowner away before the residence on Tomki Road was burgled, and that shows some professional sophistication, so the aggravated term of six years will be imposed, along with one-third of the mid-term for the 10851 [taking a car without permission] for a total of seven years and four months; and the credit for time served will apply only to the string of misdemeanors. The EOS [execution of sentence] will be suspended for 36 months on condition of 360 days in jail with a proposed release into the rehab program where the time can be served day-for-day, but only if he completes the program. He’s to have no contact with Jeanette Long and stay away from Heinz Dellinger, and restitution is to be paid to Mr. Dellinger in the amount of $4,000. As to the restitution to Ken Fowler he has waived his appearance at the restitution hearing. Due to his inability to pay the Victim’s Fund Restitution fee of $6300, it will be reduced to $900. Also, I’m going to suspend payment of the $712 probation report, although it was a very fine report and worth every penny.” 

Next day Matthew Zwicky entered a plea to his part in the burglary and cashing the stolen checks. The deal would be six years in the state prison, but we somehow expect another year to be added on at the time of sentencing, just to match up with the others, which were all six years to begin with, but later enhanced to seven; unless Zwicky’s lawyer, the meticulous Michael Shambrook, can make a difference. 

We mention it because Shambrook once got a client off scot-free on a technicality overlooked by the young prosecutor, who has since move away, and shall remain unnamed, for the sake of his career. But Judge Behnke was well aware of Shambrook’s wily ways and repeated some of the verbal technicalities, just for good measure. Execution of this sentence would be suspended for a 36-month probation period and Mr. Zwicky, who the judge described as “highly intelligent,” was released from custody and ordered back for judgment and sentencing on July 12th at 9:00. 

Next up was the patricide case of Jewel Dyer, whose sentencing was begun a week earlier, but then it got hung up on the question of remorse, and Public Defender Jeffery Aaron said that there was some indication of remorse lost in the transcripts of the police interviews immediately following Dyer’s arrest, and if Judge Moorman were to take a week to read the transcripts thoroughly, the remorse could still be found. 

On this occasion, Judge Moorman said that she had read the transcripts and didn’t find much remorse there, and when asked if he had any further argument, Mr. Aaron said that he would like to underscore Mr. Dyer’s statements that he felt stressed-out and threatened by his father; in addition he pointed out how Dyer’s drug use comported with the probation report, and he mentioned Dr. Good’s descriptions of the arousal of emotions like intense hatred, and that Dyer was actually threatened with a knife. 

A big knife, described as a Crocodile Dundee-type knife, or a small machete, was found under the body, but as Deputy DA Scott McMenomey pointed out, it had not been taken from the sheath. And a point McMenomey didn’t point out was the statement by Dyer that he (Dyer) had removed all the knives from the house; so did he overlook this big one? Or was it new? Or did Dyer plant it under the body? Never mind that Dyer had something like three hours to prepare the crime scene to his liking – the point, I’m sure, would have been brought up if the case had gone to trial. 

Mr. Aaron also said that the brother, Clayton Sternick, wasn’t mentally ill and he too felt stressed-out by the father. Finally, Aaron moved to strike a statement volunteered by the probation officer, that even when directly asked, Dyer didn’t show any remorse. 

Deputy DA McMenomey said Dyer was not remorseful now and had never shown any remorse. Dyer had been allowed to plea to the voluntary manslaughter because of the father’s mental condition, as he’d become somewhat irascible after the motorcycle accident; but, McMenomey said, “Clayton had his issues, too.” He was, McMenomey said, afraid of his own descendants -- ! (And who wouldn’t be? Now that Uncle Jewel had shown all the  nephews and nieces in the family just how to deal with an unruly father!) And thereby prosecution was not moved by the alleged remorse lurking in the transcripts, and the People were asking for the aggravated term of nine years. 

Mr. Dyer has always shown a kind of fey, other-worldly -- what the hippies used to call “trippy”—detachment in court, like his mind was miles away, and at this point he said to no one in particular – and no one paid him any mind – “I’m here for justice…” 

The lawyers quibbled over some credits for time served in the sate hospital being evaluated by three different psych docs, and some extra time for good conduct, all of which came up to about half of the seven years he was sentenced to. 

Judge Moorman granted the motion to strike the remark made by the probation officer, condemning it as “inappropriate. And, so, the judge said, “here’s how I look at this: Mr. Dyer is presumptively ineligible for probation, and I believe he harbored then, as well as today, a mental disorder, in however strict a sense that was then or now, and that makes an unusual circumstance to overcome the ineligibility, but I don’t think there’s a murder out there that’s a run-of-the-mill case, but as I understand the facts to be this was a killing where he took a baseball bat and beat his father to death, a very violent killing and it does suggest a degree of callousness, but that doesn’t bring this case into the realm of the unusual.” 

Moorman mentioned the discretion of the trial judge – in this case, since there was no trial, the one (Her Honor) who presided over the prelim – and that it was her decision whether to “find unusual circumstances” to overcome the ineligibility for probation clause, but “I think he would not comply, so I’m gonna decline to place him on probation. So among the criteria, I think, based on his mental faculties, family background, and aptitude, I don’t think he has the ability to comply with the terms of probation…” 

Jewel, the judge seemed to perceive, was the kind of guy who will do just as he pleases, no matter what. 

“As to the mitigated term [which defense wanted; 3 years, which he’s already served] and the aggravated term [which prosecution was asking for, 9 years] I’ve done some analysis: Factor A.1. applies. The victim was vulnerable, that’s pretty clear. As to factor B.1., the defendant has engaged in violent conduct and is, therefore, a danger to the public. With respect to mitigation, factor A. 2. applies, as the victim was the aggressor [we have Dyer’s word for it], and although I don’t know that, I think, ultimately, he [?] was aggressive. There’s no evidence the knife was pulled out of the sheath; it was found under the body, still in the sheath [Dyer only had two-and-a-half to three hours to plant it there] and Mr. Dyer’s mental state at the time was aggravated by some form of abuse [all of it alleged by Dyer] and there was a history of the father scaring the two sons at various times, so the father’s angry outbursts were believable, but I don’t believe that gives the defendant any right to the victim’s property; I do not find it applies.” 

This reporter somehow missed out on whatever claims Jewel Dyer had to his father’s property; but it seems like a good thing the judge didn’t allow it for it seems a dangerous precedent to set for fathers in general, and especially to those with any appreciable property, a child would stand to inherit. 

Judge Moorman then went into the allegations defense had made that the father had sexually abused the defendant and found the lack of evidence “problematic,” since there wasn’t any to support it. Mr. Aaron had made some suggestion that the situation was like a spouse in an abusive relationship, and that his client was “trapped” in the father’s house, since he had no where else to go. This seemed a novel outlook on an age-old problem; that is to say, when a 24 year-old kid is still in the nest, who his father has described as “worthless” because he can’t hold a job, and keeps coming back home – well, there’s a lot of adult children living with their aging parents, but are they really “trapped”? As to the week-long delay in sentencing, Moorman said she read the transcripts and found the “tone and words used were non-sequiturs and didn’t show any evidence of remorse. “He actually thought his actions were justified. So I’m gonna select the mid-term of six years [with one year for the use of the baseball bat] for a total of seven years in the California State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.” 

Mr. Dyer didn’t seem fazed by it, but I expect we’ll get another of his extraordinary Letters to the Editor explaining how the courts just don’t get it, and complaining about how the facilities at prison don’t come up to his standards – and woe betide any poor turnkey who gets a hair in Jewel’s food!

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