Defense Charges Plea by Defendant ‘Tantamount to Life Sentence,’ Asks for Mercy – Judge Declines

By Sam Zou

RIVERSIDE, CA – Defendant Beau Mike Burnette was sentenced here Wednesday in Riverside County Superior Court to more than 30 years in jail for four crimes committed in 2018 – his lawyer said it would mean Burnette would probably spend the rest of his life in jail.

Burnette faced four active charges, all of which were filed on July 29, 2018. Burnette is charged for kidnapping, using a firearm with a felony history, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, and using a firearm under an active firearm ban due to his prior criminal history. His sentence is 30 years and 8 months.

With Public Defender Andrea Bouchard, Burnette appeared in front of the court Wednesday and asked for immediate sentencing.

Before facing today’s charges, Burnette had already suffered a prior strike conviction, for which he got a low term of two years in prison. Considering charges would amount to the second strike under California’s 3-strike rule, Burnette will be facing a double term provided for his charges.

The essence of the Three Strikes law was to require a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime.

Burnette admitted his strike conviction without an appeal or request for a jury trial for this matter. “It is his choice to do so,” replied PD Bouchard.

With the 3-strike rule now in place, it would mean that Burnette would receive double the time for his current charges, notably, his time served over charges of kidnapping would double from nine years maximum to 18 years and over charges of assault with a semi-automatic firearm would double from five years to 10 years.

Realizing the length of time Burnette will serve, defense counsel Bouchard asked the court to impose a low term for his charges. Bouchard argued that although a firearm was involved in the case when the defendant threatened the victim, Burnette allegedly was only “holding it, pointing it, possibly manipulating the firearm in some fashion, but he did not discharge the firearm,” explained Bouchard.

With these circumstances factored, thus, Bouchard did not believe that the court should impose a 10-year upper term for the first charge. “That time would be excessive and an additional enhancement would be punitive,” claimed Bouchard.

However, Judge Anthony Villalobos did not agree with the defense counsel’s assessment.

Judge Villalobos considered the nature of the case to be “aggravated” since the defendant issued “threats of great harm, was armed, the victim was vulnerable…and it showed some planning and sophistication,” responded Villalobos.

In addition to the nature of the case itself, the judge continued to reflect on Burnette’s prior convictions. The defendant had served time for his past criminal activity, violated terms of probation, and his criminal activity “showed no circumstances of mitigation.” The judge was not inclined to reduce the charges.

The defense, however, reiterated her previous argument, calming the severity of such punishment. Granted the gun was pointed at the victim, stated Bouchard, the jury trial also found that the firearm had issues functioning properly. However, this did not eradicate the criminal and threatening nature of Burnett’s behavior.

Since the judge had already expressed his unwillingness to reduce to a low-term charge, Bouchard then asked the court to reduce the upper time limit to a mid-term charge.

Deputy District Attorney Farrell argued against such a request and agreed with the court’s explanation and tentative sentencing.

As a last attempt, Bouchard noted the circumstantial nature of Burnette’s case.

“If the court were to impose the upper term and the full upper term to the enhancement, I do believe that would be tantamount to a life sentence. He is not subject to a life sentence in this case, but I do think incorporating that particular sentence [the 10-year time served over charges of using a semiautomatic firearm] would do just the thing,” interrupted Bouchard as the court was almost ready to finalize the case and declare the sentence.

Judge Villalobos did not respond to Bouchard’s request. Instead, he fully recounted the multiple charges Burnette was facing and completed the sentence, where Burnette will possibly spend the next 30 years of life in prison.

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