CRIMINAL HISTORY KEY in 'THREE STRIKES' CONVICTIONS, DA SAYS
By George Kennedy
My friend, former Santa Clara County Judge LaDoris Cordell, disagrees with my office's enforcement of the "three strikes" law and cites as her ''case in point" that of Leonard Scott (Opinion, July 10). She states my unjust ' 'approach" is to charge all qualifying third-strike felonies, including non-serious and non-violent felonies. My approach is to follow California law (Penal Code Section 667 (g) ) that requires prosecutors to charge all three-strike-eligible felony cases and then use their discretion to seek reduced penalties in the interest of justice if appropriate. The purpose of this is to have any reductions done in open court so the public can examine our exercise of discretion.
To comply with the law, I created a committee of experienced attorneys to review all three-strikes cases on an individual basis to determine If reduced penalties are warranted. Since the Legislature and voters enacted the three-strikes law in 1994, my office has sought reduced penalties in approximately half of three-strikes cases. Legal newspapers, such as the San Francisco Recorder (May 26), characterize my ofice's three-strikes policy as moderate.
When we prosecuted Scott as a third-strike offender in 1999, my committee knew he had a lengthy, violent, criminal history containing nine felonies and 17 misdemeanors with several prison commitments. Based on this we did not ask the court for reduced penalties. This criminal history is documented in the Sentencing Memorandum on file in Superior Court in case No. C9914842.
In 1977, Scott was convicted of receiving stolen property. Shortly after serving his jail sentence, he was convicted of residential burglary and separate attempted residential burglary. After release from prison, he was convicted of another attempted residential burglary. Shortly after prison for that, he was convicted of two more burglaries and receiving stolen property.
After serving his sentence for those offenses, he was convicted of misdemeanors, one of them violent. Shortly after that, he was convicted of another burglary and sent to prison again. Soon after his release, he was convicted of possession for sale of narcotics. After release from prison for that, he was convicted of misdemeanors, one of them violent.
By then it was 1990 and he violated parole by punching a woman in the face, causing severe bruising. Shortly after his release, he violated parole again by raping a woman. Soon after his release, he kicked a woman; for some reason the charges were dismissed. Then he pushed a woman down stairs and was convicted of a misdemeanor.
Soon thereafter (by now it was 1994) he fractured the temple of a teenager, but the case was dismissed because the victim would not cooperate with the prosecution. Not long after that, while Scott was on probation and was supposed to be taking anger-management classes, he was convicted of attacking a man whose mentally challenged child annoyed Scott by waving through a window. Soon after that, he beat and tore the clothes off a woman, for which he was convicted.
Not long after that, he was convicted of threatening bank employees. Then, over the next two years he was charged with four more beatings, but three were dismissed when he pleaded guilty to one.
Then he stole the identity and credit history of another person and using them leased a Mercedes-Benz and made several attempts to obtain credit at automobile dealers and loan agencies. Shortly after that, he severely beat a female friend. (We dismissed that case because of the lengthy sentence he received for the major identity theft.)
Scott, then age 43, was convicted by a jury in the identity theft case. The Probation Department wrote a report for the court and recommended a 25-years-to-life sentence. The trial court also had discretion to impose a reduced sentence but declined to do so after a hearing.
Scott is a high-propensity criminal. While his life is a tragedy, removing him was good public policy.