Was sentence for DUI a mistake?

Judge limited by Legislature’s guidelines

Staff writerMay 25, 2014 

Shaun Goodman’s DUI arrest the night of Dec. 29 — his seventh such arrest since 1994 — was a doozy.

And so was the reaction when he was sentenced to work release.

Goodman, 42, led Olympia police on a high-speed chase through downtown at speeds over 100 miles per hour in his silver 2000 Ferrari F360. As Goodman drove, a terrified passenger begged to be allowed to get out and finally jumped from the still-moving car.

Goodman struck a parked car and a home during the pursuit. Hours after his arrest, his blood-alcohol level was 0.16, twice the legal limit for DUI. The outrage spread quickly May 9, when a judge sentenced Goodman to a year of work release from the Thurston County Jail for his crimes.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller handed down the work-release sentence after it was jointly recommended by both deputy prosecuting attorney James Powers and Goodman’s defense attorney, Paul Strophy, as part of a plea agreement. Goodman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI and felony attempt to elude a police vehicle.

On May 16, about 25 picketers marched up courthouse hill on Lakeridge Drive to just outside the Thurston County Courthouse, denouncing what they believed to be a lenient sentence. The protesters said Goodman, a defendant with the means to purchase an expensive Italian sports car, and who owns his own business, would not have received such a light sentence if not for his money.

“Initially it was just kind of pure anger,” said Sam Miller, who set up a Facebook page to organize the protest.

One protester, Lisa Strange, summing up the sentiments of the protesters, used a bullhorn to state that she held Powers and Schaller responsible for Goodman’s sentence.

Strange said judges are under the delusion that Goodman is “going to figure it out. Just because he happens to be a business owner and has money and has a fancy car, does that make him smarter, you know, than the average alcoholic? I don’t think so.”

Miller added that Goodman’s sentence confirmed his belief that “there’s a two-tiered legal system, one for those with money and another for those without.”

By Friday, a story on the protest had more than 1,170 comments on Reddit, a popular social networking website. And last week, television news stations in New York City started featuring stories on how Goodman, in the words of television legal commentator Nancy Grace, got off “scot-free” for his crimes.

On Monday, Goodman began serving his work-release sentence, which allows him to spend 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays at his business, Vantage Communications, a telecommunications contractor. Officials at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said Goodman’s work release does not include GPS monitoring. But jail officials have declined to say whether Goodman’s place of employment is his home. Goodman’s attorney also refused to say where Goodman is serving his work release.

BEHIND THE SENTENCE

Looking through the rear-view mirror at Goodman’s criminal case reveals many factors that could have led to a harsher sentence.

Some of them, such as the statutes governing sentencing guidelines in Washington, were beyond any judge’s control.

Powers and Strophy both vigorously defended Schaller’s decision to implement their mutual recommendation that Goodman serve 364 days on work release from the Thurston County Jail. Powers and Strophy both point out that 364 days in jail was the maximum sentence Goodman could have received for his crimes, based on his offender score of 3. In Washington, unless there is justification for an exceptional sentence, judges must for the most part abide by the standard sentencing range that the Legislature designates for each crime, based on a defendant’s offender score. An offender score is calculated by adding up each of a defendant’s prior criminal convictions.

Although Goodman had six prior DUI arrests when he crashed his Ferrari on Dec. 29, he was not eligible to be charged with felony DUI.

Felony DUI charges — against Goodman or any other defendant — based on multiple priors, require four prior DUI or related convictions, such as negligent driving, within a 10-year span.

Goodman had three prior DUI and negligent driving convictions over the past 10 years. A felony DUI conviction would have potentially landed Goodman with more mandatory jail time, or possibly even prison time.

Goodman’s most recent convictions that could have been counted against him were in 2011, 2006 and in 2004, His fourth most recent DUI-related offense was in 1999.

Goodman’s standard sentencing range for his Dec. 29 felony eluding was between 2 and 6 months. His standard sentencing range for the misdemeanor DUI was zero to 364 days in jail.

REACTIONS

Miller, the organizer of the protest, said Powers recently explained to him that Goodman was sentenced at the high end of the standard range for his misdemeanor DUI.

“I was wrong in my initial anger toward Judge Schaller,” Miller said.

Added defense lawyer Strophy, “To blame Judge Schaller for not sentencing him to more than 364 days in jail is completely unfair, because she could not have sentenced him to more than that, even if she wanted to.”

Also, Goodman was initially held on suspicion of unlawful imprisonment after his arrest, based on passenger Henry Griffin’s allegation in a 911 call that he asked to get out of Goodman’s Ferrari during the police pursuit. A judge found probable cause to support that accusation during Goodman’s preliminary appearance.

However, Powers did not bring a charge of unlawful imprisonment , because, he said, there was no evidence Goodman actually tried to prevent Griffin from leaving the vehicle. He said even if Goodman had been convicted of unlawful imprisonment, it would not have raised his offender score enough to increase his jail time.

THE SUPER BOWL

The perception that Goodman was getting preferential treatment in his criminal case began in late January. That’s when Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon signed an order allowing Goodman to attend Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey while his criminal charges were pending.

But during a hearing in December, Dixon denied Goodman’s request to go to Las Vegas to compete in a soccer tournament.

“I would be doing not only this community, but also you a disservice if I allowed you to go to the state of Nevada,” Dixon said during the Dec. 30 hearing. “You are not to leave the state of Washington.”

A month later, however, when Goodman asked to go the Super Bowl, neither the judge or the prosecutor opposed the request. What had changed?

Basically, Powers said, it was because Goodman had shown good behavior while on bail. He had not re-offended, he had followed the conditions of his release, and he had agreed to wear an ankle bracelet to ensure he would not consume alcohol.

Strophy, Goodman’s attorney, said it is not unusual for a judge to allow a defendant who had posted bail to leave the state for travel while charges are pending, because defendants still have the presumption of innocence.

Goodman’s means and ability to travel to the Super Bowl should not be held against him, Strophy added. He said he routinely secures orders allowing defendants with pending criminal charges to leave the state for all sorts of reasons, including planned vacations.

“If this had been a construction worker driving his pickup and he had been allowed to go to California for some kind of convention, it would not have been picked up by the media,” Strophy said.

Powers bristles at the notion that Goodman’s economic status had anything to do with his agreement to recommend work release.

“There’s nothing about this that had anything to do with his money,” Powers said. “If this guy had a minimum-wage job, I’d do exactly the same thing.”

WORK RELEASE

Powers also supported Strophy’s request that Goodman be allowed to serve his 364-day jail sentence on work release. Work release has turned into a popular form of alternative sentencing in recent years, because of overcrowding at the jail. It is typically not allowed for offenders who commit a violent crime.

Powers said he believes if a defendant with a substance abuse issue has an opportunity to keep working while serving his or her sentence, then he has a duty to allow that person to keep his or her job. Otherwise, a sentence could be setting up an offender for relapse once he or she is released.

“The goal is to have stability in their lives so that they have a real incentive to fight the addiction and live a sober lifestyle,” Powers said.

Powers said if Goodman had been sentenced to straight jail time, he would not have been able to run his business or earn an income while he was incarcerated. Powers argued that straight jail time would have been a public safety risk because it would set Goodman up for failure in his work and, possibly, recidivism.

“This way, he still has his life,” Powers said.

“We have to punish, but when we talk about public safety, it’s not the punishment in most cases that’s going to keep people safe in the long run,” Powers said. “Not when you’re talking about addiction.”

Reflecting on the May 16 protests he set up over Goodman’s sentence, Miller said he does not believe a year of work release “makes sense.” However, he agrees with Powers that Goodman should not be refused compassion just because he drives a Ferrari.

“I wish nothing but the best for Shaun,” Miller said. “I feel bad that this came down on him.”

A MATTER OF LAW

Presiding Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy said Friday that one lesson the public should take from Goodman’s sentencing is that they have a role in lobbying the Legislature if they disagree with the standard sentencing guidelines it creates. Every year, the Legislature tweaks and makes changes to those guidelines, she said.

“It’s important that the public understands its role, and the public has a role in giving input through the legislative process,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the public interest might motivate people to get more involved.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com @JeremyPawloski

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