Patterico's Pontifications

11/4/2007

L.A. Times Shrugs Its Shoulders on Question That Has a Right Answer

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:46 am

The L.A. Times reports that Lane Garrison has been sentenced to 3 years, 4 months — but is agnostic on how much time he’ll actually serve:

On Wednesday, the actor, a former co-star on the Fox TV show “Prison Break,” was sentenced to 40 months in state prison. He had pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in May. His attorney Harland Braun said he expected Garrison would serve 20 months, minus about 91 days already served, but the prosecutor said he thought the actor would serve 85% of the sentence.

So who’s right? To that question, L.A. Times editors offer only one big shrug of the shoulders. Hey, one side says one thing, and the other side says something else. How are we supposed to get to the bottom of that?

Except that, unlike many things in life, there is a actual right answer to this question.

I’d give you the answer, but I can’t, because I don’t have enough information. Unlike the folks at the L.A. Times, I don’t know precisely what Garrison pled to, or how the 40-month sentence was calculated. I have no inside knowledge of this case, and news reports offer contradictory information about the precise offenses and allegations Garrison was charged with and pled to. I have tried to figure out how the judge arrived at a 40-month sentence from the various charges I have read that Garrison pled to, and I can’t figure it out. If I knew the answer to that question, I would be able to say with certainty whether he will receive 50% or 85% credit.

But I know this much: there is a right answer out there. And the paper should have obtained it and reported it.

Why didn’t the L.A. Times get an answer on this? Are they so used to churning out “he said, she said” journalism that they don’t recognize those situations where there is a definitive right answer?

UPDATE: Dave points out that my office issued a press release that clarified the offenses to which Garrison pled. But it doesn’t explain how the 40-month sentence was reached.

UPDATE x2: Making matters worse, I mistakenly called it “3 years, 8 months” initially, until a commenter noted my error. Everything I have read has said 40 months.

UPDATE x3: JRM has a plausible explanation here.

19 Responses to “L.A. Times Shrugs Its Shoulders on Question That Has a Right Answer”

  1. Well, the guy was on a show called “Prison Break”, so do we really know how much of his sentence he’ll serve?

    Polybius (14e4f1)

  2. Mr. P, your so very apt phrase, “he said, she said journalism” is just the way a great many stories are reported in the news media.

    dchamil (98d880)

  3. They need to fog the non-agenda stories so that the fog in the agenda stories appears less conspicuous.

    j curtis (8bcca6)

  4. Doesn’t your office issue press releases? He had to have pled to a vehicular ms. Is that a violent felony? It’s not listed under 667.5c as such.

    dave (58f834)

  5. Its more that the invasion of the mentality of the political process story has occurred into the more traditional hard news stories. In the political stories, there is no longer any hard reporting of a factual nature, just stories about process that consist of reporting competing spins. So the stories are so formulaic that they write themselves, take a couple of sentences from press release A, and a couple from press release B and you are done.

    Now all the hard news is done the same way, pay absolutely no attention to the idea that there may have been some form of actual event that can be investigated and narrated – instead get quote from side A and quote from side B and print.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  6. Yeah, dave, I updated and linked the press release. We now know what he pled to.

    But how did the judge get to 40 months??

    Patterico (bad89b)

  7. Okay, I’m just guessing here. I don’t have a copy of the veh. code and it is almost possible to navigate through it quickly. At first I thought he was charged with multiple misdemeanor dui w/injury. But, isn’t their a felony dui w/injury, too? What is the sentencing range? I assume giving booze to a minor is only 6 months.

    dave (58f834)

  8. Mr. P, your so very apt phrase, “he said, she said journalism” is just the way a great many stories are reported in the news media.

    Interestingly, Tim Rutten used a very similar phrase in his column this morning, which I criticize in my next post. But I composed this post and used that phrase before reading his column.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  9. How about 24 months for the MS, 16 mos for 2 duis w/injury, and the misdemeanor was sentenced concurrently? As to the credits — I don’t know.

    dave (58f834)

  10. So is it 50% or 85% time? This should be apparent from any pre-sentence credits that Judge Fox certainly calculated as part of the sentence. My money would certainly be on Harland Braun’s statement — after all, if he advised his client that he’d serve half-time and it turned out to be 85%, I gotta believe we’ll soon see a malpractice or ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

    nosh (53dd5b)

  11. I gotta believe we’ll soon see a malpractice or ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

    Because if he knew he was getting 85% instead of 15%, he would have rolled the dice and gone to trial and won? Oh, I don’t think so.

    dave (58f834)

  12. He also admitted to gbi. I’m not sure what the purpose of that was except to bump it up to a violent felony which would limit his ability to obtain credits for early release. If anything, this demonstrates how complicated CA sentencing laws are.

    dave (58f834)

  13. patterico, the first sentence of your post says he was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months, which by my reckoning is 44 months, not 40 months, but what do i know, i’m still on daylight savings time.

    assistant devil's advocate (1423d9)

  14. ada,

    You, sir, are correct. It’s 40 months. I don’t know why I said 3 years, 8 months.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  15. OK, I’ve handled a bunch of these. Let me drift off a bit for a weird part of California law:

    Steve drives drunk. He screws up in some minor way – fails to see the car next to him when he changes lanes, say – and kills someone. He faces 16 months, 2 years, or 4 years in state prison, or probation (with a year or less of county jail.) He will serve his prison time at 50%.

    Fred drives drunk. He drives the same, and seriously injures someone. He faces 42 months, 5 years, or 6 years in state prison, or probation (with a year or less of county jail.) *And he faces that time at 85%.*

    So far, no one has mounted a successful equal protection argument against the latter. But this needs to be fixed one way or the other.

    For the instant case, the sentence for the GBI allegation could not have been imposed. Since it was not imposed, this is necessarily a 50% case. (I do not think you can 2933.1 this without imposing the GBI enhancement. If I’m wrong, someone will correct me, I hope.) So, I believe the defense attorney is right. Three years, four months is a head-scratcher, though.

    We have: 191.5(b) (DUI/death, simple negligence): 16 months, 2 years, 4 years possible. We further have 23153 (DUI-injury) (16-2-3) with a one year mutiple-victim enhancement. (You could also plead this as the 191.5 with two 1-year enhancements. You cannot allege more than one 23153 for one event.) Primary sentence goes with one charge; other charge goes at 1/3 the mid-term.

    So, I think this is how it went (and I can’t figure out another way to get there, and I’m usually good at these): He got a 191.5(b) with two one-year enhancements for multiple victims. Judge gave him the mitigated for 3 years, 4 months. He ran the 23153 count concurrent, which would be appropriate. Prosecutor argued for mid-term with two one-year enhancements. The GBI enhancement went somewhere…. but not anywhere that would trigger the 85% requirement. (And, it is absolutely good cause to withdraw a plea if you’re not told that your plea does not receive full credits and that would affect your decision. I’m surprised the judge didn’t take care of this in court.)

    It’s a very common error to think that 191.5’s are 85%ers. It is, however, error.

    –JRM, who has zero chance of plausibly denying his identity if a colleague reads this.

    P.S. I don’t know when this guy committed the crime; if it was before 2007, the penal code sections are different, but the analysis is the same.

    JRM (355c21)

  16. JRM,

    That makes sense to me. I was unfamiliar with the one-year enhancements.

    My problem was: was it 191.5 (50%) or something with GBI (85%)? It looked like the GBI couldn’t have been imposed due to the low length of the sentence, but where did the fractional time come from?

    You have explained it in a way that makes sense.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  17. Considering his rather high bac and the fact he tested positive for cocaine and that he killed one kid and seriously injured two others, the sentence was way too low if he only serves 20 months. No wonder the dead kid’s family is so angry.

    dave (58f834)

  18. 17/Dave:

    These are hard cases. I will say that I believe the LADA got a result well in-line with other, similar cases, and I would probably have taken the same deal in the same situation. (It looks like a plea to a four-year lid.)

    In all California jurisdictions that I know of, simple-negligence DUI-manslaughter folks often get a year. In some other jurisdictions, well, St. Louis Ram and killer Leonard Little comes to mind; he got three whole months.

    On the one hand, you have a grieving family and a dead person. Very frequently, the dead person is a completely nice human being with nice and very stressed family members who are appalled at the likely sentence.

    On the other, Mr. Killer drove in the same stupid manner as a bunch of other drunks (usually) and those idiots got sentences of days rather than months or years. Judges who see zillions of these DUI’s have a tough time bringing the hammer down on non-recidivists. (Recidivists get hammered by judges and the code; a DUI-gross negligence death with any second-DUI previously in the killer’s life is 15-to-life.)

    One piece of good news: Mr. Garrison now has a strike and is lifetime priorable for DUI. If the law stays the same and he picks up a DUI ten years from now, his likely outcome is four years at 80% (not 85%, not 50%). In general, post-DUI death DUI’s serve significantly more time for the subsequent DUI than the death.

    –JRM

    JRM (355c21)

  19. I agree these are hard cases, but there is a big difference between someone who makes an illegal left turn due to inattention as opposed to some one who has a .20 and coke in their system, drives, and kills someone and injures two other kids. I don’t believe dui/ms cases often get only a year. Maybe, if they are celebrities or in LA, but not in other CA counties.

    The fact that if Garrsion commits another crime in the future he will get a stiffer sentence is no consolation to the soft sentence he received now.

    dave (96265d)


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