PD Calls Prior Strikes Unfair, but Judge Rules Three Strikes Law Still Applies to Young Man with Drug Addiction

By Leslie Ortiz

SACRAMENTO, CA – Despite a man’s attempt to get treatment for drug addiction, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette made it clear here this week that Riley Roper is “determined to stay in this thug lifestyle of selling drugs.”

Judge Marlette addressed the Romero motion made by Assistant Public Defender Guy Danilowitz, attorney for Roper, giving PD Danilowitz the opportunity to further argue why he believed the court should remove a prior strike given to Roper, for the purposes of sentencing.

Danilowitz initially acknowledged that Roper’s previous charges “are fairly bad, other than the fact that no one got hurt.” He added the basis of this Romero—to remove a strike—is that it is not within the three strikes law to double Roper up because of his age at the time of his prior conviction.

Under the three strike law, if the defendant were to acquire a new felony with two or more existing felonies, the defendant would be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years.

“This type of juvenile strike can be used against him but I don’t think it’s fair in this case,” Danilowitz argued.

Danilowitz noted that every prior charge in Roper’s life, including charges he was given as a juvenile, are based on his untreated drug addiction. “The motivation for those crimes comes from his illness, which is his addiction,” Danilowitz said.

DPD Danilowitz added that the defendant is young enough and has a minor enough criminal record to be able to give him a chance at a program where he can receive treatment for addiction. In addition, he acknowledged that if Roper were to fail out of the program, he would still have to face time.

Danilowitz pointed out that sending Roper back to prison will not do his drug addiction any good. He stated that since being arrested on a second new case, Roper “has been able to get back into treatment, be a caregiver to his grandma” and has been more involved with family.

“For all those reasons, it would be in the interest of justice to take a chance on Mr. Roper and strike his prior strikes so he can do some lengthy residential rehab instead of going back to prison,” Danilowitz said.

Deputy District Attorney Heather Phillips stated that she understands that the Roper is young and acknowledged that maybe if he had one pending felony her position would be different.

However, she argued that while one of Roper’s case was pending, he quickly picked up a second felony case for similar conduct while out on bail.

“I do think that he falls within the spirit of the three strikes law and I don’t think that his criminal behavior is slowing down at all,” Phillips argued.

Judge Marlette stated that while the Roper’s situation is sad, “there’s got to be balance against the public safety. It’s a shame that he is so young and is facing this.”

However, despite the fact that Roper has actively attempted to get better out of custody, Judge Marlette noted, if Roper had “$2,400 in his pocket, he’s got pills for sale, he’s on parole, he’s got a gun.

“He clearly is determined to stay in this thug lifestyle of selling drugs” Judge Marlette said, ruling Roper is within the spirit of the three strikes law, and refused to not count the prior strikes.

A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 8 at 8:30 am in Dept. 9.

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