By Koda Slingluff
SACRAMENTO – Sacramento County Superior Judge Ernest Sawtelle Tuesday joined via Zoom to participate in an unusually lighthearted, polite burglary plea banter—the judge was in good spirits, even joking with the defendant and court counsel during the particularly courteous hearing.
In spite of some technical difficulties causing long pauses in speech, Judge Sawtelle’s calm, happy demeanor managed the room effectively.
The defendant was Allyson Lynch, charged with felony burglary of a residence with a sweet sounding name.
“Mint Chip Lane, huh?” Sawtelle read with a smile. “Wow. That sounds good.”
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gong explained that Lynch unlawfully entered the building in late November, 2020, “with intent to commit a felony therein.” Lynch took a black gym bag before being quickly apprehended down the street.
A resolution had already been agreed upon between Assistant Public Defender Brooks Parfitt and DDA Gong. They agreed that Lynch would plead “no contest” in order to expedite conviction. Lynch herself was courteous to the entire room, going out of her way to thank the bailiff as he handed her paperwork.
Proceeding with the felony burglary charge, Lynch would be unable to own a firearm. As Sawtelle explained this to Lynch, she shook her head just slightly—a motion that many judges may not have noticed. Sawtelle stopped his explanation, however, and checked with her for her understanding.
“I do understand. I just…” She trailed off. “May I talk to my lawyer for just one moment?”
Sawtelle let the two talk. After a few moments passed, he asked, “Do you need more time to talk to Mr. Parfitt? We have all afternoon. We only have two cases on the calendar.”
He smiled slightly as he said, “If you need to talk more, I’ll give you as much time as you need.”
Lynch may have entered confused about what a felony conviction meant for her, but Sawtelle allowed time and space for questions. Lynch talked with her attorney for about 15 minutes before she felt comfortable proceeding.
Lynch repeatedly thanked the judge and said ”your Honor” throughout. Then, having discussed it in length with her attorney, she pleaded no contest with confidence.
Judge Sawtelle sentenced Lynch to 180 days of straight time—she’s been in custody for nearly 90 days and could be released soon after good time credits—and two years of searchable probation.
The combination of Lynch’s courteous demeanor and Judge Sawtelle’s lighthearted but fair attitude made for an unusual scene in a burglary plea hearing. With all people acting kind, informed, and respectful, the plea ran swiftly and—to Sawtelle’s apparent joy—even ended early.
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
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