COURT WATCH: Resentencing Hearing of 63-Year-Old Man Leads to Delayed Ruling

By Kaveh Nasseri

MODESTO, CA – The resentencing hearing of a 63-year-old man, previously sentenced for four prison priors, was held this week in Stanislaus County Superior Court and, after a long discussion, the judge eventually decided to mull over the decision.

As the accused explained in court, he was listed for more violations than he had actually committed, and said his record while in prison had been excellent.

The accused was initially charged with offenses relating to theft, drug use and escaping from custody.

In 1995, officers found him in a garage with a sawed-off shotgun and a revolver, where he was in possession of methamphetamine. Since then the accused has been in prison, where he has been undergoing rehabilitation.

At the beginning of the hearing, Judge Kellee C. Westbrook explained to the accused that she and the lawyers involved in the case had an off-record discussion about his prison priors, noting, “Initially the judge sentenced you on four prison priors, but it turns out that it was only two commitments. You had two stayed,” said Judge Westbrook.

In response, the accused argued the rule violations he has been accused of are listed inaccurately.

“I’d just like to address one of the items on the exhibit list about these rules violations. I only incurred four rule violations after 2019, and it’s got all these other rule violations,” said the accused. “It looks as if I never even stopped getting into trouble at all, and I did,” he added.

With regard to his drug use, the accused said he had been working hard on his rehabilitation since 2010, explaining, “I did relapse in 2015 but since 2015 I’ve only had one incursion and that was in 2022, that was last year.”

The noted 2015 relapse occurred after the accused had surgery, when he took medication for pain relief. “There were two five-year periods of time that I didn’t have any rule violations: from 2009 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2022,” added the accused.

“At this point in time I’m gonna ask you to stop talking so I can hear from your attorney,” said Judge Westbrook, turning to Deputy Public Defender Karen Kelly for more information.

DPD Kelly said she had viewed the accused’s file in its entirety and could see the gaps that he was talking about. “Relapse is not uncommon,” said DPD Kelly with regard to the 2015 relapse following the surgery. She argued that the accused “…has demonstrated over the 25 years he’s been incarcerated that he is intent on keeping his sobriety.”

Noting the accused has earned his GED and has been programming extremely well, DPD Kelly asked that the four prison priors be stricken. She then asked the court to strongly consider the post-programming of the accused and consider sentencing him without imposition of a strike. “Am I allowed to ask the court anything at the end?” asked the accused at this point. “Wait till this part’s over,” said Judge Westbrook in response.

The prosecution argued the accused may still be a risk to public safety.

“As the court can see through the various rules violations, his violations have included possession of manufactured alcohol, controlled substance possession, mutual combat, fighting, and paraphernalia,” said the prosecutor. “The board noted that even though he was age 60 and eligible for elder parole release, he still struggled with substance abuse.”

“He’s been sober for quite a substantial period of time now,” said Judge Westbrook.  

“Yes, your honor, but we are still having the violations in custody, and that is a secure environment. We don’t know what’s going to happen when he’s released, and that’s understandable, there’s always a risk when individuals are released on parole, but this is a sustained history while in prison of not following the rules,” said the prosecutor in response.

DPD Kelly explained the last time the accused had a rules violation was in his 50s. Citing the accused’s current age of 63, DPD Kelly said, “Statistically, he’s aged out of when he would usually commit a criminal offense after release.”

At this point, Judge Westbrook said she would hear what the accused had to say.

The accused said he wanted the county of Stanislaus to know how much he regretted his past behavior.

“I just wanted the court to know that over the past 25 years, it took me a long time to come to terms with my past behavior,” he said. “I worked hard on my sobriety, I worked hard on my rehabilitation, and I want the court to know that I know the impact a person like me has on society.”

Finally, the accused asked to receive concurrent sentences in the case that he is not resentenced. “…if the court isn’t going to resentence me I would ask that, if the life sentences that I incurred were consecutive, if they could be ran concurrent so that I could maybe get parole through the board before I pass away.

“And that’s about all. If I talk anymore I won’t be able to talk, I’ll start crying,” he said. DPD Kelly reaffirmed the accused’s request to run the life sentences concurrently.

Judge Westbrook said she would strike the B priors and look at the case one more time, adding,  “I understand the defendant is now 63, that the majority of his offenses were theft and drug related, that he did have a violation in 2015, although it does sound like he was in basically solitary confinement…and then he got out and couldn’t take the pain anymore, so there’s some mitigating circumstances there.”

“I’m gonna give this some thought,” concluded Westbrook, informing the accused he would receive a letter in the mail once she came to her decision.

About The Author

Kaveh Nasseri Mashhadi is a recent graduate of UCLA with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. He is passionate about journalism, immigration law, and international politics. He hopes to attend law school and pursue a legal career.

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