- I didn't hear the judge stack the porn sentences (although that's a moot point)
- In answer to a question, the vast majority of the fine goes to the State. None of it goes to the victim. In this case, he'll never have to pay it. I think, for folks that parole out, that the parole division tries to collect any fine.
. . . just received four life sentences. Stacked. That makes him eligible for parole in 120 years. (I'll update later.) Edit: I've been doing this a long time, and I can't recall anyone who got hammered as badly as this guy. Not that he didn't deserve it, it's just an observation. I watched most of the trial but, admittedly, not all of it. The basics facts aren't (sadly) all that shocking in Wise County: The defendant was accused of molesting a family member in a poor section of Newark. Yeah, I've seen a life sentence for that before, but typically you'll see something in 30 to 60 year range. But what made this case different was the child porn. Yesterday was a bizarre day in the 271st Judicial District Courtroom. About mid-morning, I saw the ladies in the DA's office blocking off the windows which allows the public to peer into the courtroom. By looking at the big screen set up in the courtroom, it didn't take me long to figure out what was going on: Something bad was about to be shown. (The doors remained open for anyone who wanted to walk in, so it remained a "public trial.") The images were soon shown and (although I don't agree with showing them on a huge screen instead of a more reserved method) they were, and I'm being kind here, shocking. All seven of them. Being a prosecutor and a defense lawyer over the last 20 years has allowed me to see a lot of things that most people never will. but this stuff was bad. I can only imagine what the very conservative looking Wise County jury was thinking -- especially since most of those ladies seemed like the type to have never even seen legal, adult porn much less the shocking illegal stuff. (Sidenote: I'm 99% sure that this is the first child porn case to have ever been tried in Wise County. And how odd it was. I couldn't help but think about the fact that this guy was charged with possessing images that the public finds so shocking that we have agreed to make it illegal. Yet there were those images being broadcast on the big screen for any member of the public to come in and watch.) But back to the trial. The jury found the guy guilty of possession seven images of child porn (that's seven different convictions) as well as four counts of aggravated sexual assault (same victim being assaulted four different ways giving rise to four additional convictions.) The guilty verdict really wasn't surprising, but then it was time for the punishment phase. During that phase, another relative testified that she, too, had been molested by the Defendant. There was other evidence introduced that he had pornographic tapes in his room as well as some magazines that had some bizarre incestuous titles. (Giving more credence to my oft spoken saying of "People are crazy.") Then it was time to deliberate on punishment. It didn't take long, and that was true even though the deliberations were interrupted when they sent out a note - a note that is the equivalent of a knife in the heart to any defense lawyer: "What is the difference between 'life' and '99 years'." Not a good sign for the defendant. Because of the 11 convictions, the jury had to assess punishment for each conviction. The child porn, despite all the hoopla, is only a third degree felony with a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The jury gave him the maximum on every single count. As for the charges of Aggravated Sexual Assault, the maximum is up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Once again, because of the four convictions, punishment had to be assessed on each one. Once again, he got the maximum of Life in prison and a $10,000 fine. Based upon the parole laws, a person sentenced to life in prison for that type of offense must serve at least 30 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Now here's a quirk in the law: Normally, multiple sentences assessed in the same trial must run concurrently (at the same time.) However, the law, being no friend of sex offenders, provides an exception for multiple sentences for crimes like Aggravated Sexual Assault. But it's not the jury that makes the decision - it's the judge. (Quite frankly, the jury is placed in the very awkward position of handing down multiple sentences without knowing whether the those sentences will run concurrently or consecutively.) But "consecutively" is what the ruling was in this case as Judge Fostel ordered the four Life sentences to be stacked on top of one another. I'm not sure why Judge Fostel made that decision, but you'd be hard pressed to find any impartial observer who disagreed with him. From the verdict, it was clear that the jury wanted to assess more than what they were confined to. Perhaps he was following their implicit wishes. But, in the end, I think it was the child porn that put a flame under the jury. It was, in a way, a perfect criminal justice storm. *************** The picture, above, was taken as almost an afterthought. Truly, the sentences had been handed down less than 15 minutes before it was taken. He is simply walking out of the basement of the courthouse to a deputy's car. It's ironic that he is walking into sunlight. Edit:
at 2:36 PM