Prosecutor fails to "strike out" Kauffman's client
Katie Kauffman’s client, who was facing a life sentence under the state’s “three strikes” law, was sentenced this week to eight years in prison.
With time off for good behavior, he will be out in about five years.
It was a big win for Kauffman’s 32-year-old client. His criminal history includes two convictions for robbery. Those are strike offenses under Washington’s Persistent Offender Accountability Act, which was approved by voters in 1993. The law mandates that convictions on a third strike carry life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Last year, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office charged Kauffman’s client with burglary in the first degree (domestic violence), felony violation of a no-contact order, theft of a motor vehicle (domestic violence) and residential burglary (domestic violence.)
First-degree burglary counts as a strike.
The charges stemmed from allegations made by the client’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his children. In October 2016, she called 911 and told officers he had come to her house in violation of a protection order, assaulted her and stole her car.
A warrant was issued for his arrest.
While his case was pending, the client missed a court appearance and the prosecutor filed an additional charge of felony bail jump.
Kauffman and co-counsel Whitney Hawke took the case to trial in late October. At the end of the four-day trial in Superior Court, the jury convicted the client only on the bail jump charge. They acquitted him of theft of a vehicle, and were hung on the remaining charges.
After the verdicts were read, jurors who met with Kauffman and Hawke said they were split 10 to 2 in favor of finding the client not guilty on the strike charge. They said they didn’t find the alleged victim credible. For example, she testified she hadn’t seen the client in years but then acknowledged their youngest child is 1.
After trial, the prosecutor said if the client chose to go to trial again on the residential burglary charge, he would file an additional charge of felony violation of a no-contact order. This was based on recorded calls the client made from jail to the alleged victim.
The client was facing between 72 and 96 months for the felony bail jump. The new no-contact order charge carried a penalty of 60 months.
The prosecutor said if the client pleaded guilty to the new no-contact order charge, he would argue the two terms run consecutively, but Kauffman could argue for them to be concurrent.
At the change of plea and sentencing on Dec. 26, the prosecutor asked for a sentence of 132 months. He said the defendant was already getting quite a deal, as he had been facing life in prison.
Kauffman asked the judge to sentence her client to 72 months. She noted the violations of the no-contact order were all phone calls. It wasn’t as though her client was showing up at the alleged victim’s house, she said. And the felony bail jump he was convicted on wasn’t as egregious as some bail jump cases. He missed a review hearing that neither Kauffman nor the prosecutor had requested. Kauffman got him into court within a week and he was allowed to remain out of custody.
Kauffman also said the jury had been 10-2 in favor of acquitting her client on the strike charge, and if her client wasn’t risking a life sentence it was a case she would have readily taken to trial again.
The judge asked the client what he thought. He said he felt the prosecutor’s recommendation of 11 years in prison for bail jump and violating a no-contact order was too high.
The judge agreed and handed down the sentence of 96 months.