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Top 10 stories of 2013: 6. Convicted serial killer Nissensohn given death penalty

 

It took a jury 90 minutes on Dec. 10 to decide that a man who had recently been convicted of three first-degree murders should receive the death penalty.

Joseph Michael Nissensohn was convicted by a jury in late October of killing Tammy Jarschke and Tanya Jones in Seaside, near Monterey, in 1981, and Kathy Graves in South Lake Tahoe in 1989. He had been charged with the three murders just before his release, serving 15 years for the second-degree murder of Sally Tsaggaris in Seattle in 1991.

The trial to determine whether Nissensohn — who “views himself as a serial killer,” prosecutor Dale Gomes asserted during the opening of his closing — was guilty featured a story of sex and drugs that spiraled into murder.

Late ex-wife Cheryl Rose testified of the murders and called Nissensohn a serial killer. Sandy Volkert, another ex-wife, said she was not into the BDSM sexual lifestyle Nissensohn enjoyed. Kim Eliason testified how she was kidnapped by Nissensohn over a disagreement about drugs and that he raped her in the back of a milk truck at gun- and knifepoint. Brenda Miller initially found him charming until he demanded sex and beat her afterwards. He would also blindfold her, strip her naked and “show off his conquest” to friends. Summer Dawn, Miller's daughter, was led to a shed under the pretense of a hunting trip when she was 5 years old and made into Nissensohn's juvenile sex slave — something he had always wanted. Jessica Pillow, who was with Nissensohn for less than a week while she was a juvenile, was also molested. Maggie Myers said he was obsessed with wanting to have sex with Kathy Graves, one of his alleged victims. A book about serial killer Paul Bernardo — eerily close to Nissensohn's own story of sex, drugs, murder and Nissensohn's dreams of having an underage sex slave — was found in his jail cell.

Defense attorneys Hayes Gable III and Peter Kmeto attempted to sway the jury, to no avail, by pointing out that there was no DNA evidence positively linking Nissensohn to the murders and that crime scene investigations had been botched. They also thoroughly examined whether memories had been filled in by the witnesses' minds, whether events happened as had been testified.

But a three-day deliberation handed out the same verdict for all three charges: Guilty of first-degree murder.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/no-6-convicted-serial-killer-nissensohn-given-death-penalty/

Nissensohn sentenced to death

 

By Tom Lotshaw
[email protected]

Joseph Michael Nissensohn was sentenced to death Thursday in South Lake Tahoe for the first-degree murders of three runaway teenage girls in the 1980's.

Nissensohn, 62, was convicted in November for the 1989 murder of Kathy Graves, 15, of South Lake Tahoe, and the 1981 murders of Tammy Jarschke, 13, and Tanya Jones, 14, both of Seaside, Calif.

At Thursday's sentencing hearing, El Dorado Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury upheld a jury recommendation reached in December that Nissensohn be executed for the vicious killings.

At least two of the murders involved kidnapping or rape or both. And Nissensohn preyed upon the vulnerable runaway girls and “subjected them to unimaginable pain and torture,” Kingsbury said, calling their disappearances and murders “every parents' worst nightmare.”

Kingsbury ordered Nissensohn to be executed at California State Prison in San Quentin unless his automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court proves successful, calling the death penalty a sentence no judge wants to be in a position to carry out and a sentence that brings her no pleasure. “But it is the law in California and I took an oath to carry out that law,” she said.

The bodies of the three runaway girls were found in remote woods and at old logging sites in Monterey and El Dorado counties after their disappearances. Their remains were found tied to trees or scattered by animals.

Several family members testified in court they are struggling with their losses decades later. They described Nissensohn as a menace to society, an “evil person” and “monster,” and a serial killer with no remorse who “probably will live out the rest of his worthless life in prison at the taxpayers' expense.”

In written statements read by prosecutors, Penny Jarschke said she is still praying that the needless killing of her daughter Tammy is only a nightmare. The murder also destroyed her own life, Penny Jarschke said.

Jarschke suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She said for years she could not touch duct tape because her daughter was found bound by it with a dirty sock stuffed in her taped-shut mouth and a screwdriver plunged so hard into her body it broke off the handle.

“He took her life and that has completely destroyed mine … He killed her and gave me a life sentence,” Jarschke said about Nissensohn, who was eligible for the California death penalty because of a prior second-degree murder conviction for the 1989 killing of Sally Jo Tsaggaris, 46, in Washington state.

Family members said they doubt Nissensohn will be executed as ordered. Their only comfort is knowing that he cannot victimize more innocent people. “That's the only peace we can pray for,” one family member told the court.

Sherri and Ivan Parsley, Kathy Graves' aunt and uncle who cared for her, said Nissensohn is getting off way too easy for all of the harm he has caused. They said they are still waiting for Graves' remains to hold a memorial service for her.

California has not carried out an execution since July 2006 because of court rulings, bureaucratic requirements and the challenge of obtaining lethal injection drugs. The state now has 741 inmates on death row, more than any other state.

Clarence Ray Allen was the last person executed in California. He was put to death by lethal injection for a 1980 triple murder in Fresno that he ordered from behind bars to silence witnesses in other killings. Allen was serving a life sentence for one murder when convicted in the death penalty case.

“The justice system has ordered Nissensohn to be executed. It's now on the backs of the gutless bureaucrats to impose the sentence,” Deputy District Attorney Dale Gomes said after Thursday's court hearing.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/nissensohn-sentenced-to-death/

 

4th defendant guilty in murder case

 

The fourth and final defendant in a murder case that involved illegal drugs and false allegations that the slain man was a pedophile was convicted last week by an El Dorado County Superior Court jury.

A jury came back July 6 to announce it had reached a verdict in the case against Nalana Nicole Omega, the last in a quartet of murder defendants in the stabbing death of Pete Carl Thomas. The victim was found dead Feb. 3, 2015, in his home on Sand Ridge Road south of Placerville. The death occurred in the midst of illegal drug dealings, with the four perpetrators intent on stealing from the victim, according to law enforcement officers.

The July 6 jury verdict that found Omega, 33, guilty of first-degree murder was the fourth such verdict in the case, with earlier trials for Danielle Marie Weed, 26; Raul Gonzalez, 24; and Roberto Barrera, 20, also won by the prosecution. Gonzalez and Barrera were tried together, with the cases against Weed and Omega adjudicated in separate proceedings.

Although authorities have said Weed is believed to be the one who actually stabbed Thomas, all four defendants faced first-degree murder charges under California's felony murder rule that says should anyone die during the commission of one or more on a list of serious felonies — including robbery — those participating are as guilty of the death as the one who actually did the deed.

The prosecution's case was that the four defendants had gone to the victim's home, a trailer, on Jan. 31, 2015, to take property from him including illegal drugs; Danielle Weed had said to the others that she had gotten narcotics from Thomas in the past.

 In order to get her cohorts to help with the robbery and ultimately the killing, prosecutors have said, defendant Weed had convinced the other three that the 55-year-old Pete Thomas was a child molester.

That ploy was an attempt to “demonize the victim; to set him up to be a target,” deputy district attorney Dale Gomes said during closing arguments in Weed's trial, which concluded in late May.

The victim was found three days after the robbery-murder, left there to die alone, according to the people's case. All four defendants were under arrest within 15 days of the fatal stabbing, with officers at the time identifying the two men as belonging to the infamous Sureno gang.

But it was one of the women who instigated the killing, with the prosecution said that Weed is the person who “set this whole thing up.” A forensic pathologist during one trial testified that Thomas could not have lived more than “a matter of minutes” after sustaining one of the wounds, a deep cut that involved the victim's lung and a major blood vessel.

Although a neighbor found Pete Thomas dead on Feb. 3, it is thought that death occurred between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, according to the case laid out by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office. Autopsy results showed that Thomas had methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death and a family member who testified in earlier proceedings said Thomas had struggled with drug addiction.

The four suspected killers were arrested on different days as the case unfolded, with Nalana Omega picked up Feb. 4, 2015, after being pulled over by a county sheriff's deputy who subsequently found stolen property including a computer laptop and bank checks inside her vehicle. A revolver reported stolen from a Citrus Heights victim also was located during the traffic stop.

Once at the county jail deputies would find heroin, hypodermic needles and a pipe of the type commonly used to smoke methamphetamine in Omega's possession.

The two men, Barrera and Gonzalez, were arrested on murder warrants Feb. 18, 2015, at a residence on Green Wing Lane in Placerville, with Placerville police officers at that time identifying the locale as being known for Sureno gang activity. Weed would be charged with homicide as the investigation continued.

A key witness during the three trials, Daisy Garcia, said she had accompanied the four defendants to where the victim lived, but after going inside Thomas' trailer she said she went back out to sit in a Hyundai, the vehicle they had driven to the scene. Garcia said she was unaware of the brutality occurring inside the trailer until Weed came out, knife in hand.

Garcia testified that Weed gave the knife to Nalana Omega who then wrapped the ostensible murder weapon in a sweater.

The knife used in the slaying has never been located by law enforcement.

Garcia, who testified that she had not met Weed until that day, said she recalled Weed saying that she intended to kill Thomas and that he had “a bunch of guns and jewelry.”

Once back in the Hyundai, testified Garcia, Weed “said that she stabbed him.”

Danielle Weed, Raul Gonzalez and Roberto Barerra are set for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, in the Main Street Courthouse in Placerville. Nalana Omega is scheduled for sentencing July 20

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/4th-defendant-in-drug-related-murder-case-is-guilty/

 

 

Defendant sentenced

 

The fourth and final defendant in the murder of a local man who was stabbed to death at his home in the Sand Ridge Road area, apparently as the perpetrators sought illegal drugs and other loot, was given the same sentence as her three partners in crime: 25 years to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge James Wagoner pronounced sentence on Nalana Nicole Omega on Aug. 4, closing the books on a tawdry episode where the victim, Pete Carl Thomas, was smeared by one of the gang as being a pedophile, apparently to convince the others to help her slay Thomas.

The victim was found dead in his home located south of Placerville on Feb. 3, 2015. He had suffered a mortal stab wound; the murder weapon has never been recovered.

In addition to Omega, 33, those who earlier received sentences of 25 years to life from Judge Wagoner are Danielle Marie Weed, 26 years old at the time of arrest; Raul Gonzalez, then 24; and 20-year-old Roberto Barrera. The two men were tried together while the women's trials were separate. Juries found all four guilty of murder, even though it is thought to have been only Weed who actually stabbed to death Thomas.

All four defendants were charged with first-degree murder under California's felony murder rule that says should anyone die during the commission of one or more on a list of serious felonies — including robbery — those participating are as guilty of the death as the one who actually did the deed.

A witness during Weed's trial who said she sat in the car that had been driven to Thomas' place while the four others remained inside the victim's trailer testified that Weed had said she intended to kill Thomas in order to steal drugs and anything else of value. Weed at one point had told the crew that Thomas had “a bunch of guns and jewelry,” testified Daisy Garcia, who added that when Weed came out of the trailer and got into the Hyundai where Garcia waited, Weed told her that she had in fact killed Thomas.

The prosecution's case was that the four defendants had gone to the victim's home on Jan. 31, 2015, to take property from him including illegal drugs; Danielle Weed had said to the others that not only did their targeted victim have guns and jewelry but that she had gotten narcotics from Thomas in the past.

In order to get the others to help with the robbery and ultimately the killing, prosecutors have said, defendant Weed had convinced them that the 55-year-old Thomas was a child molester.

That ploy was an attempt to “demonize the victim; to set him up to be a target,” deputy district attorney Dale Gomes said during closing arguments in Weed's trial, which concluded in late May.

The victim was left to die alone and was found three days after the robbery-murder. All four defendants were under arrest within 15 days of the fatal stabbing, with officers at the time identifying the two men as belonging to the infamous Sureno gang.

But it was Weed who “set this whole thing up,” said the prosecution, who during court proceedings called on a forensic pathologist who testified that Thomas could not have lived more than “a matter of minutes” after sustaining a deep cut that involved the victim's lung and a major blood vessel.

Although a neighbor found Thomas dead on Feb. 3, it is thought that death occurred between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, according to the case laid out by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office. Autopsy results showed that Thomas had methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death and a family member who testified in earlier proceedings said Thomas had struggled with drug addiction.

The four suspected killers were arrested on different days as the case unfolded, with Nalana Omega picked up Feb. 4, 2015, after being pulled over by a county sheriff's deputy who subsequently found stolen property including a computer laptop and bank checks inside her vehicle, along with other stolen property including a gun. A search at the jail would reveal that Omega possessed heroin, hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia.

The two men, Barrera and Gonzalez, were arrested on murder warrants Feb. 18, 2015, at a residence on Green Wing Lane in Placerville, with Placerville police officers at that time identifying the locale as being known for Sureno gang activity. Weed would be charged with homicide as the investigation continued.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/defendant-sentenced/

 

Life behind prison walls is Hoffer's foreseeable future

 

Michael Allen Hoffer likely will live out most of his remaining days behind the bars and walls of a California state prison following a sentence handed down last week in Superior Court in Placerville by a judge who determined that's the best place for the 47-year-old man involved in a lengthy shootout nearly three years ago with El Dorado County law enforcement officers.

One deputy suffered apparently permanent hearing loss after a bullet flew past his ear during the March 16, 2015 episode in an upscale Cameron Park neighborhood where Hoffer's home that he shared with his longtime lady friend was one of the beautifully coiffed properties that line Oakwood Road. That house no longer exists, having been reduced to cinders as a result of the drama that began with a 911 call from a neighbor who said she heard a woman's screams coming from a nearby house.

That screaming woman, Hoffer's “fiancee” of 18 years, would be found wandering just past the house, accompanied by her dog, as deputies arrived to the early morning scene. The victim, who it would later be learned suffered a broken nose from being pistol-whipped, a severely sprained ankle and countless bruises and scrapes, was wearing only pajama bottoms and a T-shirt as she ostensibly made an escape from Hoffer's house, her home.

The morning soon would erupt in gunfire as Hoffer armed himself with an arsenal that included a big .50-caliber AR-15 style rifle. Other nearby neighbors would join the woman who made the emergency phone call in hunkering down and eventually being evacuated as the terrifying night unfolded.

This was not the first time that Hoffer, who reportedly made a respectable living working in sales, would be the subject of domestic violence cases and in fact the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department had numerous contacts with the couple in years past. In one matter, said prosecuting attorney Dale Gomes, the girlfriend actually was taken into custody after Hoffer was found with an injury to his face that he claimed she inflicted — but charges never were filed against her.

During Hoffer's trial last August deputy district attorney Gomes produced a witness, a friend of the couple, who testified that he was present during that past incident where he explained that Hoffer had gone into a bathroom — uninjured — then reappeared with a mark to his face that he said was inflicted by his fiancee. Speculation is that Hoffer either slammed his own face into a mirror or wall in order to frame his longtime lover, according to Gomes.

That witness wasn't an easy one to track down for the August trial where a jury found Hoffer guilty of nearly every charge — but Gomes did it and the man's testimony was part of the prosecution's winning case. The defendant was convicted of all but the most serious count, attempted murder, with the jury agreeing that Hoffer is guilty of assault with a firearm on a peace officer and three counts of felony domestic violence.

Hoffer was not charged with arson although the flames that would consume the formerly beautiful house are believed to have been purposely set by Hoffer, just before he “belly crawled” from the porch to try to make an escape — possibly intent on stealing one of the sheriff's patrol cars that were lining Oakwood Road, said prosecutor Gomes.

Although Hoffer never admitted to setting the house ablaze, even though he apparently fired a .50-caliber round into a nearby propane tank that “failed to explode like they do in the movies,” Gomes said testimony by a prosecution arson expert helped make the case that the owner is who destroyed his own home. The expert testified that it is virtually impossible for a house of that size to go from “no fire, to fully engulfed, to gone in an hour” without some help from accelerants such as gasoline or other highly flammable material. Firefighters were quick to converge on the scene that morning in March 2015 but because bullets were flying they did not battle the blaze, whose fury took the once lovely living quarters down to the ground.

The attempted murder charge, which Gomes conceded presents challenges for the prosecution due to the burden of proving an intent to commit homicide, stemmed from the fusillade of bullets that Hoffer sent zinging through the early morning, with one of them nearly striking a deputy who was returning the suspect's fire.

That officer's testimony also was crucial in convincing the jury that Hoffer is a danger to society, Gomes told the Mountain Democrat this week.

“Officer Garrett Gennai testified as to what he experienced when the bullet came close to hitting him,” Gomes began. “And it might not be what you'd think — he said he could feel it in his sinuses, his nose. That testimony was given more weight because of his background.”

Gomes explained that Gennai was a U.S. Marine whose training included having live bullets fired over troopers' heads and so when it happened again in March of 2015 — deputy Gennai knew exactly what was going on.

“His testimony was compelling, I think, to the jury,” said Gomes. “He was a Marine sniper who had bullets buzzed right over the top of his head during training — he knew what he was talking about.”

Gomes added that deputy Gennai today has damage to his ear, something called barotrauma that is common to those experiencing a scuba diving mishap or sudden drop on board an airplane, that apparently can continue to cause hearing degeneration. The officer reportedly returned to duty shortly after the incident, where remarkably no other serious injuries were reported as a result of the violence that shattered the night.

Neighbors agreed that fact is amazing, with some saying right after the drama that began roughly around 2 a.m. that they thought the shooting lasted a good 45 minutes. Official records say it was just over 20 minutes that gunfire was exchanged and although Hoffer has never admitted to aiming at deputies, that volley of potentially deadly bullets led to the attempted murder charge for which the jury ultimately acquitted Hoffer.

The panel found all other charges were proved by the prosecution, however, and on Friday visiting Judge Thomas Smith handed down a sentence that spelled out 45 years and 4 months plus a separate, consecutive sentence of 25 years to life in connection with the case.

A new law as of October of 2017 could have Hoffer applying for what Gomes called an “elderly parole option,” early release for those over 60 years of age who have served at least 25 years of their original sentence — but the deputy DA hadn't done the precise math on that scenario when he spoke with the newspaper.

Regardless, with Hoffer required to serve 85 percent of the 45 year, four months term then to serve the consecutive 25 years to life — Gomes said it is fair to assume that his days will dawn for decades from inside prison walls.

“I think the judge decided that's where he belongs and that's what I argued in court,” said Gomes. “Mr. Hoffer had a lot of chances (over the years) to turn things around.”

Gomes added that many of Hoffer's family members and friends showed up in court to support him prior to the judge passing sentence, testifying to the character of the man they know. 

The defense team of Placerville attorney Jim Clark and Brian Gregory from the Bay Area had petitioned for a new trial but that motion was denied by the court.

 https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/life-behind-prison-walls-is-hoffers-foreseeable-future/ 

 

Convicted child molester sentenced to six years in prison

 

Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud on March 16 sentenced 72-year-old Lawrence Leland Luck, to six years in state prison.  

Luck was convicted of lewd acts with a child by a jury of six women and six men on Dec. 16, 2017. Luck faced a maximum sentence of eight years.

The charge dates back to 2003, when Luck molested an 8-year-old child. The crime was not reported until years later, when the child reached adulthood. Although the case was filed in 2015, soon after the victim reported what had happened to her, contentious litigation delayed the matter from going to trial until winter, 2017. After hearing the evidence against Luck, the jury quickly found him guilty of lewd acts with a child and found the special allegation of  “substantial sexual conduct” to be true.

At the nearly two-hour long sentencing hearing, members of the victim's family addressed the packed courtroom, asking Judge Proud to severely punish the defendant for the damage his actions inflicted upon the victim and her family. The El Dorado District Attorney's Office argued that Luck should be sentenced to eight years in state prison, the maximum sentence allowed, while the defense argued for leniency. After hearing from all parties, the court imposed six years in state prison and remanded Luck to the custody of the California Department of Corrections.

This case was investigated by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department and prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Dale Gomes.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/convicted-child-molester-sentenced-to-six-years-in-prison/

 

Man found guilty of torture in 2008 kidnapping

 

Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE  A South Lake Tahoe jury found a man guilty of crimes including torture and making terrorist threats last week for a November 2008 incident where he and an accomplice beat a South Lake Tahoe woman, took her clothes and left her in the snow.

Joshua Barber, 27, faces life in state prison after a jury found him guilty of kidnapping, infliction of torture, aggravated assault and making terrorist threats during the incident, according to a statement from the El Dorado County District Attorneys Office.

After about a day of deliberation, the jury also upheld a special finding by prosecutors that Barber inflicted great bodily injury on the victim, according to the statement.

The woman suffered serious injuries during the incident, including a concussion and broken teeth, according to the statement.

Co-defendant Amanda Johnson, 29, will serve 11 years in state prison as part of a plea agreement with the District Attorneys Office. Johnson testified against Barber during the trial.

The Nov. 22, 2008, incident started when Barber and Johnson, who were involved in prostitution, attacked a woman in the parking lot of a South Shore hotel, according to the statement.

Barber and Johnson then forced the victim into a vehicle, and, while continuing to beat her and threatening to kill her, took her to a location in the Camp Richardson area, where she was stripped of most of her clothing and left in the snow,Ó according to the statement. ÒThe victim heard traffic, was able to move toward that sound, and thus found a Cal-trans snow plow. The Cal-trans employee promptly summoned aid for her.

Barber's attorney, Dain Weiner, and Johnson's attorney, James Clark, could not be reached for comment.

The case was investigated by South Lake Tahoe police, the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department and investigators with the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office.

Deputy district attorney Dale Gomes tried the case and expressed appreciation for the hard work of the officers who investigated the matter, and the jurors who heard the trial, in the statement.

Barber's sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 23.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/archived-stories/Man_found_guilty_of_torture_in_2008_kidnapping/

 

Child molester sentenced to 65 years in prison

 

Democrat staff writer

An El Dorado County man recently convicted of more than two dozen counts of child molestation was sentenced Friday to 65 years in prison.

Robert Ray Borys, 64, appeared before Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud after jurors found him guilty of 26 counts of child molestation.  Court documents state the molestation occurred over a six-year span, from 2002 to 2008.

Before Judge Proud handed down Borys' sentence, deputy district attorney Dale Gomes was given an opportunity to read a letter written by the victim, who was 9 years old when the molestation began.

No one knew of my pain, read Gomes. I hurt everywhere … I was trapped and helpless. I wanted to die.  Gomes continued: I'm not sure how being loved feels. I'm not sure how being normal feels … No one deserves this kind of pain.

After the letter was read, Proud decreed Borys would be sentenced to the upper-term of 65 years in prison for several reasons.  The victim was vulnerable in that she was young and considered the defendant a father-figure, he said.

Borys is ineligible for probation and must register as a sex offender. He was also ordered to pay more than $50,000 in civil restitution to the victim.  Proud acknowledged Borys clean criminal record, but said he is unsure whether the defendant is remorseful for his actions.

Borys, who was seated at the defense table with attorney Peter Tiemann, remained stoic during the reading of his sentence.  After Friday's hearing, Tiemann said his client maintains his innocence and announced his intention to file an appeal as soon as possible.

We don't agree with the jury's verdict, he said.

Four of the trial's jurors sat in the audience during the reading of the sentence. Three of them spoke to the Mountain Democrat on the condition of anonymity.  We as a collective group wanted to see this finalized, said one.  

(The impact of the trial) will never go away, another said. This is something we will carry with us forever.  "(Borys) was evil", the third said. "It just feels good to know he's never going to hurt anyone again."

The presence of the jurors at the sentencing hearing was particularly upsetting for Tiemann, who said he was very disappointed with the way our process played out.

Gomes said he was pleased with Borys sentence, calling it enough to make sure he never gets out. The deputy district attorney echoed Judge Proud's sentiments and said Borys did not appear to be remorseful.

Gomes also praised the efforts of the Placerville Police Department and Detective Ricky Brown, whose investigation made Borys conviction possible, he said.

 https://www.mtdemocrat.com/archived-stories/Child_molester_sentenced_to_65_years_in_prison/

 

Sutton sentenced to 22 years in prison

 

A judgement and sentencing hearing ended with a somber Phillip Scot Sutton, 47, of Placerville, being sentenced to 22 years and 8 months, the maximum sentence, for sexual acts with a minor.

Sutton was arrested on suspicion of molestation in July, one day after the victim reported the incident to the Placerville Police Department. Sutton plead guilty to those charges.

Honorable Judge Nelson Brooks handed down the ruling, which included Sutton serving his time in prison, registering as a sex offender, paying victim restitution and other fines.  

“The considerations the court took for the circumstances of the case were that the victim was particularly vulnerable when the activities took place. The defendant took a position of trust and used that over a long period of time,” said Judge Brooks.

Brooks went on to say Sutton seemed “selfish and delusional.”

Dena Stone, Sutton's attorney, asked the judge for a 10-year sentence citing that he would be ineligible for probation and has no criminal history.

Sutton has been charged with eight counts, including continuous sexual abuse of a child and lewd acts with a child under the age of 14.

Sutton addressed the court before impact statements were heard.

“I am 100 percent guilty of the crime. It was vile, disgusting. I have deeply hurt my family and the victim. I don't know what they are going through. I have betrayed the trust of the community and my family. I was a liar. I hope they can forgive me someday, I am begging for forgiveness. I am ready to accept the penalty for my actions,” said Sutton.

Dale Gomes, representing the people in this case, did not believe Sutton's remarks to the court.

“None of this act is real. He did not come in as remorseful (when he was arrested). He has engaged in manipulation of his victim and others. I have prosecuted dozens of sex offenders. I have never seen one so manipulative. He reached out and recruited in jail, in an attempt to dissuade the victims. When the D.A. became aware of this fact, we put a stop to it. The defendant's messages were consistent in blaming guilt, claiming he would be murdered in prison and that this would be on their conscious. His cruel behavior and callousness is staggering,” said Gomes.

“The trauma from the crimes are extremely painful. But we are strong and I will do everything in my power to heal us. I am asking you to make the victim's voice loud and clear today and do her justice,” said the mother of the victim.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/sutton-sentenced-to-22-years-in-prison/

JOSEPH HINDS confers with his attorney Todd Jones in court on May 14. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

 

News

Victim recounts being shot by son-in-law

 

Prosecutor Dale Gomes tried to call Paul Hinds, Sr. to the stand on May 14, but as it was nearly 4:30 p.m., the witness was gone. Instead, he called David Klinker to the stand, telling Judge Dylan Sullivan that David was eager to tell his story.

David, father-in-law to defendant Joseph Hinds, said he had never had to intervene — nor had he been asked to — in his daughter's fights. Instead, it was usually his wife Michelle who broke up the fights. Michelle had done so “many times; to put it a number on it, a minimum of 10 to 15 times.”

Gomes asked if David had ever fought with Joe, had heated discussions or threatened Joe — even as a joke. David gave the same answer each time: “Never.” He told his son-in-law “war stories” of his youth, exchanging similar stories, but not to give a tough guy image, he said. He confirmed a story of David punching his friend, Steve, during a window-breaking incident, but neither was injured, and the next day they were back to being friends. David had known Steve since they were about 14, and similar incidents had happened before.

Joe would get drunk, David said, and Cindy would call Michelle. “He's drunk and out of control again,” David said he would think each time. He had picked his daughter up on the street after she left the house two or three times, he said. Cindy told him Joe would “push her, throw her down, slam her against the wall,” but he saw no injuries — except one time, when he saw a scratch on her face.

He spoke with Joe a few times about not getting violent, and that he could call his father-in-law whenever he needed. Joe wasn't much of a talker, David said.

Prior to March 6, David “treated him like my own son. I did everything I could for the guy,” he said, including providing financial and emotional support. “I tried to counsel him, make him feel better.” He said he was not afraid of his son-in-law.

On March 6, when he heard how Michelle was talking on the phone to Joe and Cindy, he asked if he should go. The second time he asked, Michelle said yes. He jumped in his truck. He was irritated “a bit” from seeing his wife so upset, wondering when the fighting between Cindy and Joe would stop. “On and on, year after year, in the middle of the night,” he said. He was “exasperated, like, ‘I give up,' this is never going to end.”

He was at the door in less than a minute. He lightly knocked — it was dark inside, and he didn't want to disturb their Yorkshire terrier. Joe shouted to open the door — David assumed he meant for Cindy to open the door, as he didn't have a key. Joe shouted again before throwing the door open and shoving a Springfield XD .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun in David's face. David knew the gun, and had fired it at a gun range once before. Joe yelled either “I'll kill you,” or, “You want some of this?” Joe wore a black hoodie with the hood up.

“My first reaction was pure shock,” David said. “Something I just did not expect from him, in the least.”

He was concerned about his daughter and granddaughter, pushing the gun out of the way with his left hand. He did not remember if he pushed Joe or if Joe simply fell backwards, being drunk, but Joe hit the wood stove behind him and fell to the floor. Michelle told David that Cindy was in the back bedroom, past Joe. As David stepped over Joe, he thought to look for the gun and started turning. Their eyes met. Joe, now somewhat sitting up, extended his arm and fired.

“That was rather shocking,” David recalled. He turned and started for the bedroom, thinking Joe missed. After two or three steps, “It started to burn intensely.” Cindy came out, with David saying, “Cindy, he shot me.” Cindy looked behind and asked Joe, “You shot my dad?”

The pain got worse. He knelt down and told his daughter to call 911. He could not see Joe behind him. He did see blood starting to soak his sweatshirt. The bullet, he later found out, hit his left abdomen and exited under his right arm, near the ribs. It passed through his stomach. He was taken to Sutter Roseville, where he underwent surgery and stayed for five days. He has not been back to work, under doctor's orders, due to nerve pain.

As it was 5:30 p.m. and an hour past when staff should go home, Judge Sullivan closed the court down for the day.

The next day, cross-exam on Klinker began at midday. He told Jones that picking up his daughter was “routine” but it had always been Michelle, not him, who picked Cindy up.

He denied telling Joe multiple stories — that he beat someone up at a bar in Sacramento after being given fake drugs; that he was arrested in Sacramento or Fresno for violence. He did say he was arrested on a felony resisting arrest after a drunken tussle in his living room, but his friend Tom's wife stepped on an officer's sunglasses and the officer said someone would pay. The officer beat him, he said, despite being on the floor, handcuffed.

After he was shot, he thought he was dying. He told Cindy goodbye, told her what to tell the family and, when deputies arrived, quickly gave a statement.

He again described Joe when he “slung open the door, lightning-quick, like a mad man,” and Joe was “wild-eyed.” The gun was between about 4 inches and a foot from his face. Muscle reflex knocked the gun aside.

When Jones asked if he made it to the bedroom, he said, “No, I did not. He shot me,” motioning to Joe.

Jones asked if it was an accident. “No way … I looked into his eyes. He's very proficient with firearms,” he said, noting Joe had used them his whole life. “Impossible. How could it have been an accident? He looked me dead in the eyes … made that decision and pulled the trigger.” The gun, he said, was reliable and would not misfire, with a heavy trigger pull.

After he was excused, Sullivan asked if Gomes was charging Joe Hinds with attempted murder. Gomes replied no, just what was on the complaint. Though Sullivan thought there was cause to show attempted murder, she only held Hinds for three counts: assault with a deadly weapon — firearm; making criminal threats; and causing great bodily injury with a firearm.

Joseph Hinds will be arraigned on June 1 in Department 1 at 8:30 a.m.

https://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/victim-recounts-being-shot-by-son-in-law/

 

Outburst clears courtroom

 

Tahoe Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE Ñ A judge has sentenced a Sacramento pimp to an indeterminate state prison sentence for a November 2008 incident where he and a prostitute kidnapped and beat a woman before leaving her nearly naked in the snow.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Steven Bailey sentenced Joshua Barber, 27, to consecutive terms of 12 years, eight months and seven years to life in state prison on Friday.

Barber was removed from the courtroom and heard the sentencing from a holding cell after an expletive laden outburst during sentencing. The outburst caused the bailiff to temporarily clear the courtroom.

A jury found Barber guilty of threatening, torturing, kidnapping and assaulting the 25-year-old victim earlier this month.

During sentencing, Bailey called the crimes horrendous and said the most troubling aspect of the case was Barbers absolute lack of remorse.

The consecutive sentences mean Barber will serve about 17 years in prison before being able to seek release, said El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Dale Gomes. Barbers release date will ultimately be determined by the California Department of Corrections, Gomes said.

The prosecutor said he felt Barbers sentence was appropriate given the crime.

Barbers attorney, Dain Weiner, requested less than the maximum sentence given to Barber on Friday because of codefendant Amanda Johnsons involvement in the incident. He argued Barber had shown remorse in a probation report.

I just thought a midterm (sentence) would have been appropriate in light of the codefendants culpability, Weiner said outside of the courtroom Friday.

Barber was clearly the dominant person in Johnson and Barbers relationship, Gomes argued Friday. Johnson underwent extreme and outrageous violence at the hands of Barber, similar to what the victim in the case experienced, Gomes said.

The Tribune does not publish the names of victims of sexual assault.

Johnson, 29, testified against Barber during trial and will serve 11 years in state prison as part of a plea agreement with the District Attorneys Office.

The Nov. 22, 2008, incident began when the victim met Johnson inside of Harrah's Lake Tahoe during a night of drinking and dancing with a group of friends.

The woman encountered Barber and Johnson in the parking lot of the Cedar Lodge later that night. The victim said she believed Johnson began to assault her because she was jealous of her conversation with Barber.

Barber and Johnson then forced the victim into a vehicle, and, while continuing to beat her and threatening to kill her, took her to a location in the Camp Richardson area, where she was stripped of most of her clothing and left in the snow,Ó according to a statement from the District Attorney's office released earlier this month. The victim heard traffic, was able to move toward that sound, and thus found a Cal-trans snow plow. The Cal-trans employee promptly summoned aid for her.

The victim suffered broken teeth, a fractured nose and a hemorrhaged eye from the assault.

While Bailey was reading through some of the more technical language involved in sentencing on Friday, Barber grew impatient.

Can you hurry up and just give me the (expletive) time, man, Barber said.

A court bailiff approached Barber, telling him not to interrupt the judge.

I want to get the (expletive) up out of here, Barber continued, before the bailiff ordered the courtroom cleared of spectators and removed Barber from the court.

The courtroom was cleared for about 10 minutes. Sentencing resumed without Barber in the courtroom. Bailey indicated Barber was listening to the proceedings via a holding cell.

Weiner said Barber did not want to be sentenced in front of family members, many of whom were in the courtroom on Friday.

Following Friday's hearing, the victim of the assault said she was happy with Barber's sentence.

I feel great, really good, the woman said Friday. I think he deserves it.

The woman said she has been treated for depression and post traumatic stress disorder since the incident. The assault left her unable to leave the house for a period of time, but, with the help of friends, she is healing.

She said she believes in the criminal justice system and hopes to become a criminal investigator.

With a lot of psychological work to myself, I think I'll be able to move on, the woman said. I'll never be able to forget.

The victim said Barber's courtroom outburst shows he has no remorse or shame for the incident.

Members of Barber's family criticized the sentence outside of the courtroom on Friday.

Barber's cousin, Josh Uasequel, called Barber's sentence an injustice, given the involvement of Johnson in the incident.

El Dorado County prosecutors have also been overzealous in their prosecution of the case because the incident was unusual for the South Lake Tahoe area, said Barber's oldest sister, Shameka Barber.

He's not a monster, Barber added.

An appeal will be filed in the case, Weiner said.

 https://www.mtdemocrat.com/archived-stories/Outburst_clears_courtroom/

 

Ty Robben found guilty of 8 felonies; Sentencing in October

 

The man who has led anti-South Lake Tahoe Police, El Dorado County Sheriff, District Attorney and Judge campaigns was found guilty on Monday in Sacramento Superior Court on eight felony charges.

Todd "Ty" Christian Robben is facing a maximum of seven years in state prison after a jury found him guilty on the charges which involved threats and attempted threats targeted at a number of public officials including Superior Court Judges in El Dorado County, a South Lake Tahoe Police lieutenant, an investigator from the State Bar, the South Lake Tahoe City Attorney, and a local attorney who represented the defendant on a misdemeanor appeal.

El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Dale Gomes handled the case from the investigation stages all the way through jury verdict. All judges sitting on the El Dorado County bench recused themselves due to Robben's threats so the case was heard in Sacramento before a Sacramento Superior Court Judge on an assignment handed down by the California Supreme Court.

Robben will be sentenced on October 27, 2017.  After learning of the verdict, District Attorney Vern Pierson issued the following statement: “I am pleased that a jury has convicted Mr. Robben of these crimes. I hope this sends a strong statement that El Dorado County won't tolerate threats or intimidation against judges or other public officials.”

Robben once used crime scene tape to surround the El Dorado County complex on the corner of Johnson Blvd. and Al Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe and also in Placerville. He also runs two websites that target law enforcement and government, and has been seen numerous times in local courts.  A fired Nevada Department of Taxation employee, Robben also had run-ins with a Carson City judge, a district attorney and a sheriff in Carson City.

In 2014, Robben was accused of solicitation to commit murder and intimidation against Carson City Judge John Tatro in which formal charges were filed but later dismissed by a presiding judge in Douglas County.  Former Carson City District Attorney Neil Rombardo, Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger and Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong were subjects of intimidation by Robben but charges were never filed.

http://www.southtahoenow.com/story/09/26/2017/ty-robben-found-guilty-8-felonies-sentencing-october

 

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