Articles Posted in Sentencing

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handcuffs.jpg After Anselmo Rodriguez was found guilty of sexual abuse on two young sisters by a jury in the 186th State District Court in San Antonio, Texas the convicted sex offender Anselmo Rodriguez, 31, who was facing a minimum of 25 years in prison was allowed to leave court that evening and sentencing would begin the following morning. But, Rodriguez skipped out on his bond and cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet on Monday, July 23. The next day the same jury decided in less than 15 minutes to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On Tuesday, Judge Maria Herr read the sentence without Rodriguez present in the courtroom. Both Defense Attorney Libby Wiedermann and Prosecutor Catherine Hayes were in attendance.

Following the verdict on that Monday, Rodriguez was allowed to leave the courthouse. Normally a judge revoked a defendant’s bond once they are convicted, however for unknown reasons Judge Herr failed to do so and the Assistant Bexar County District Attorney failed to request that his bond be revoked. Less than an hour after he reached his house the Bexar County’s Pre-Trial House Arrest Program, the company that maintains the bracelets, was notified that a tamper alert was activated. A search of his house revealed that Rodriguez had fled, but the bracelet that he cut off was recovered. A warrant was issued and a task force was put in charge of finding and apprehending the fugitive. The manhunt has been widened to include all of Texas and Mexico.
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dwi.jpgTwo intoxication manslaughter trials in San Antonio had many commonalities, but wildly different outcomes. Sandra Briggs had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 and Jenny Ann Ybarra had a blood alcohol level of 0.13. Both accidents occurred on Loop 410, Assistant District Attorney Charles “Chip” Rich was a prosecutor in both trials, and both were sentenced to prison. But, Ybarra was sentenced to 2 years while Briggs was sentenced to 45 years. It seems that, when it comes to punishment, irregularity and inconsistency play a large role during DWI trials in San Antonio. The difference between the two cases – Ybarra’s victim was a young woman and Briggs’ was a San Antonio Police Officer.

Briggs, 59, was arrested in October 2010 and she was convicted of a first degree felony on January 20, 2012. She admitted to drinking at Bunratty Pub and stated that she had five drinks in about four hours. On her way home she hit a disabled pickup truck that was stopped near the Military Drive exit of Loop 410. She then ran to into Sergio Antillon, 25, an off duty rookie police officer, who was standing about 10 feet from the truck. He was pinned between Briggs’ car and the guardrail. He died two weeks later when he was taken off life support. She stated that there were no flares on the road and the pickup truck was partially in the right hand lane.

Briggs pleaded no contest to intoxication manslaughter and the trial, which was held at the 186th state District Courtroom, was a punishment only jury trial. Criminal Defense Attorney Edward Piker argued that there were more than just the drinks that played a factor in the wreck, including the darkened roadway and the fact that the disabled truck was blocking part of the lane. The Bexar County jury deliberated for about four and a half hours before handing down the punishment. She has to serve at least half her sentence and is eligible for parole at the age of 81.

Ybarra, 32, was sentenced to a second degree felony on February 15th, 2012, for the early morning accident in December 2007 that claimed the life of Erica Nicole Smith, 23. She had been out with friends that night and had not been driving. She had planned to stay the night at a friend’s house, but decided to drive home at about 3 AM so she could be there in the morning when her daughter woke up. Ybarra unknowingly drove the wrong way on Loop 410 and had a head-on collision with the car that Smith was riding in. While, on the surface, it seems that this was a very cut and dry case, there were several factors that contributed to the accident.

Sabrina Shaner, the driver of the car that Smith was a passenger in, was also intoxicated at the time of the accident. In addition, it was found that the paramedics delayed help to the victim. EMS left Smith untreated for more than two hours because they assumed she was already dead. Smith would die of massive head trauma. The three San Antonio paramedics had their certifications suspended in 2008 because they did not immediately check on Smith.
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handcuffs.jpgOn September 12, 2011, Julie Navejar, a San Antonio, Texas teenager who left her daughter at a west side fire station in 2009 pleaded no contest in the 289th District Court. Pursuant to her plea deal that was arranged by her criminal defense attorney, the State will not ask the judge to sentence her for more than 12 years in prison. She is applying for deferred adjudication, which if the judge grants her application for deferred and she completes the probationary period, she will not have a final conviction on her record. The prosecutor says she will be opposing her request for deferred adjudication. Navejar will officially receive her sentence in November of this year. Although she was only 16 years old when the incident occurred, the juvenile court judge certified to allow her to stand trial as an adult.

The teen’s boyfriend, Ramiro de la Rosa, is still awaiting trial. It is alleged that the boyfriend physically abused the child before they left the lifeless infant at the fire station. De la Rosa told police that days before the baby died he would slap her and choke her when she would not stop crying. The teen girl admitted during an interview that she was addicted to heroin and did not care for the child properly. Navejar’s defense attorney explained to the court during the hearing that her boyfriend would inject her with heroin and force her to prostitute herself. He would also physically abuse her as well.
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gavel.jpgIn San Antonio, Bexar County and the surrounding counties, I have repeatedly had prosecutors tell me during plea negotiations that an offer they made my client was higher than normal due to my client’s prior arrests. Most recently, this week in Hays County, Texas I was told by the prosecutor that the lengthy offer on my client’s misdemeanor possession of marijuana was due to his numerous arrests that only resulted in one conviction for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. As I explained the substance of these cases, the prosecutor told me he did not care about the facts or that they were all dismissed. He only cared that he had been arrested so frequently. The only way the prosecutor knows about the arrest is by looking at printout in the file and not reviewing the police reports. Although the prosecutors are not the ones who ultimately impose the sentence, their recommendations that consequences that may ensue from rejecting a plea offer (i.e. the prosecutor making a higher recommendation if the defendant goes open to the judge for sentencing).

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in United States v. Johnson that it was error for a District Court Judge to grant the U.S. Attorneys request for an upward departure based in part on the defendant’s prior arrests that did not result in convictions, despite their similarity to the instance offense. The District Court judge even advised that he was not considering the arrests per se, but was considering the underlying course of conduct due to the similarity of the offenses. The Court of Appeals cautioned that the only evidence before the court of the conduct of these arrests were the bare arrest reports, which are unreliable. The Court ruled that taking these arrests into consideration to upward depart from the guideline sentence violated due process.

Thus, in my opinion and in light of the 5th Circuit’s recent opinion, the prosecutors are unlawfully considering unadjudicated offenses when negotiating plea agreements. The previous arrests were dismissed for a reason and therefore should not used against a defendant in future prosecutions.
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