29 May 2019

An Ordinary Felony Case

Usually, I write about unusual or exceptional criminal cases when I write about the criminal justice system. This post recounts the course of an utterly pedestrian and typical, albeit more serious than average, felony case in the Colorado courts.
On April 28 of [2018], Lakewood police responded to the 5400 block of W. 3rd Avenue after receiving a report of a structure fire. When they arrived, they found a large barn and tons of hay were on fire. Lakewood police, with the help of the Denver Police Department, were able to get a handful of horses out of the barn while West Metro Fire worked to extinguish the blaze. In total, seven horses were killed. 
At the same time, seven other locations around the neighborhood were set ablaze, including: two dumpsters, a car, a motorcycle and the space under the stairs of an apartment where 20 people lived and were asleep. 
[Earnest Sunday Maynes, 38] was arrested in May 2018 and charged with first-degree arson, second-degree arson and animal cruelty. 
On April 4, 2019, he pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, eight counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one count of criminal mischief. He had five prior felony convictions.
He was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison.
From 7 News.

Note Re The Sentence: 

A 25 year sentence for a violent felony like this one in Colorado, entered following about one year of pre-trial incarceration, is likely to result in about 18 more years of incarceration (75% of of the sentence for good behavior while in prison, with credit for time served so far), making him about 56 years old when he is released, followed by 5 years of parole, making him 61 years old when his sentence is completely served if he successfully completes his parole sentence (something that is not at all a sure thing).

A May 28, 2018 news report linked above notes that:
A West Metro Fire spokesperson confirmed that Maynes was arrested Sunday night, though he has had a warrant for his arrest since early May. . . .  Court records indicate Maynes remains held on a $500,000 bond. He has two prior convictions on felony menacing charges and convictions on destruction of private property and petty theft, according to court records.
An April 8, 2019 news report discussed the potential sentence he faced after his plea bargain:
He . . .  could face anywhere from eight to 34 years in prison. Because of his prior felony convictions, he is not eligible for probation.
What is typical about it?

* The crimes involve an overall pattern conduct that has been uncontroversially consider criminal for as long as there has been an organized criminal justice system in common law countries, although the exact charges did not have exactly that form at common law.

* The charges bear a reasonable resemblance to the conduct and include most of the most serious charges that could have been brought, but not every conceivable charge that could have been filed under the circumstances.

* The arrest was made by local government employed police officers not long after the crime was committed. A warrant was issued for his arrest within a week or two of the crime (possibly within a matter of days) and he was arrested within a month of the time that the crime was committed.

* The charges were filed by a local district attorney in a state court.

* The defendant was an adult male under the age of 40 (he was 38 years old) with a long prior felony record (five prior felony convictions in the twenty years since he was 18 years old, some of which were, no doubt, spent in jails and prisons).

* The defendant in this crime committed in a predominantly Anglo white suburb of Denver was himself white Anglo man.

* No death penalty charges were filed.

* He was not charged with or sentenced based upon habitual offender sentence enhancing provision of Colorado's sentencing laws, even though he was probably eligible for a sentence under those provisions which would have been a de facto life sentence without a possibility of parole.

* No serious concerns that he did not actually commit the crime have been raised in the case.

* The case was resolved with a guilty plea after a lengthy period of pre-trial incarceration.

* The sentence imposed was not particularly close to either the low end or the high end of the sentence authorized for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty, even though they were not exactly in the middle of the range of the permitted sentences either.

* The sentence imposed for these serious felonies with typical of sentences imposed for that kind of conduct and those offenses in the United States, in general, and in Colorado, in particular, and as is typical, the sentence for these serious felonies was much longer than it would have been in most our jurisdictions in the world.

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