Despite a strong argument from Deputy DA Ryan Couzens for prison time, Judge Dan Maguire on Friday sentenced Lauren Kirk-Coehlo to five years of formal probation following the recommendations of the probation department.
Ms. Kirk-Coehlo plead to the sheet and admitted to among other things a charge of felony vandalism and vandalism on a religious facility with hate crime enhancements. The maximum sentence was six years, but it was a probation eligible crime.
At the outset Judge Maguire indicated that Ms. Kirk-Coehlo would be eligible for release at some point – this was not a life sentence and the question for him was whether the community safer in the long run with her in prison or with her on probation but getting more intense treatment for various mental health challenges that she faced.
Deputy DA Couzens told Judge Maguire that he disagreed with the facts behind the decision by the probation department to recommend probation rather than prison time. Mr. Couzens argued that contrary to the probation report, events were more serious than the comparable case, that she used a weapon to smash the Mosque, and that the victim here was more vulnerable than the probation report acknowledged.
He repeated his argument from the bail hearing that this was in effect a violent crime where she literally “shattered” the safety of the congregations. “I can’t see how members of the Mosque felt as safe after the attack as they did before this occurred,” he argued.
Moreover this was not an event that was subject to one-time provocation. “This act occurred because of hate, not because of provocation,” he argued.
Mr. Couzens also argued that there was not major mental health issue found by the court appointed psychiatrist. “Treatment for what?” he asked incredulously when responding to the probation recommendation for mental health treatment.
“There is no bonified mental health condition that can be addressed,” he said.
He also disputed the notion that she expressed remorse. He said that she acknowledged her conduct inappropriate, but said that’s not the same as being sorry or apologizing. She said that she was thinking clearly and that she was expressing political dissent over the treatment of women by the Islamic community.
“She is 30 years old and a college graduate,” he argued, “she should understand that what she did was wrong.”
Mr. Couzens argued she was a great danger to the community as she “acted out her animus towards minority groups.” He doubled down on his argument from the bail hearing, arguing, “I think that’s absurd” that her act was not violent. He said it had the impact of a violent act.
He would add, “I’m not outraged… It makes me afraid.”
The people are asking for prison, he said. Five years of supervision will not prevent her from representing a danger to the community.
Co-counsel for the defense, David Dratman and Steve Sabaddini responded.
Mr. Dratman argued that Mr. Couzens was basing his argument on caselaw for a sentencing scheme that does not exist and that he was relying on old case law when the department of probation had relied upon proper case law to make their recommendation.
Mr. Dratman pointed out that the probation department was well aware of her comments and had considered them carefully when they made their recommendation. He countered that thoughts, in this case in private messages, do not always translate into actions.
They had found no evidence of weapons and no evidence that she had reasonably tried to acquire weapons.
Moreover this is not a life case and they had the chance here to change her life for the better. That would not happen, Mr. Dratman argued in a prison where the type of treatment she needed would not be available to her.
He added that he believes that she has made an honest acceptance of responsibility and that not everything that is punished must be punished with prison.
Mr. Sabaddini pointed out that he disagrees that she has not taken responsibility. He read her words that her actions were “completely inappropriate and prejudicial.”
He pointed out that they have a probation department that makes a risk assessment and they came out with the conclusion that she was a low risk – if she got the treatment that she needed.
He also pointed out the psychologist Dr. Gerbasi, an experience psychiatrist who works in the courts and often for the prosecution, opined that she had counseled Ms. Kirk-Coehlo for years and believed she could work with her again to overcome her challenges.
Mr. Sabaddini argued that the psychiatrists view should be given great weight.
She has no real criminal record other than a misdemeanor trespassing years ago and that she suffers from no major psychological disorders. Instead, she has an immature personality structure and would not get the help she needed in prison.
Mr. Sabaddini said if you read the definition of crime of violence, this fits it in “no way, shape or form.” This is a property crime, through and through he argued.
For Judge Maguire this came down to an assessment of public safety and rehabilitation. He said that the sentence choice needs to be the one to enhance public safety in the long term.
In many ways he agreed with the people. He found this was more serious than other similar crimes. He agreed on the vulnerability of the Muslim community in these times, the emotional injury as well as the monetary loss.
A big issue was her lack of prior criminal conduct and her successful completion of probation for the past charge.
He stated that he saw no reason why she couldn’t comply with probation and he took issue with the prosecutor, finding that she had expressed remorse even if it wasn’t in the perfect terms the prosecutor was implying necessary.
He also found her to be a low risk.
Judge Maguire therefore ruled that the community would be served by a grant of probation where she could get the treatment she needed. He said her past shows she thrives when treated but falls off the rails when not treated.
He gave her five years of probation. He stated that this was serious enough to warrant prison, a prison term wouldn’t have been out of line, but felt that the community was best served otherwise. She received a sentence of 324 days with time served except for the last 119 days, which he suspended.
She also received 120 hours of community service, a stay away order, $7600 in restitution to repair the damage she did, cultural sensitivity, and treatment from Dr. Gerbasi.
Judge Maguire noted correspondence from Mayor Robb Davis urging a restorative justice process which he said he would consider, but only if the victim was willing. Mr. Couzens was strongly supportive of it, but the defense was a bit more equivocal.
Ultimately he ordered a review on the 25th of August where restorative justice issue would be taken up.
She also received a no fire arm provision and is forbidden access to social media. She will be on searchable probation for five years.
—David M. Greenwald reporting