Change in law means lower sentences in Nevada County murder case
Daniel Devencenzi, one of two men who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the Isaac Zafft murder case, could have his anticipated 11-year prison sentence reduced to a couple of years, prosecutors said Friday.
A change in state law is expected to also affect Nathan Philbrook, who’s currently serving a 23-year sentence on a manslaughter charge in the same case.
Accused in the 2014 shooting death of Zafft at a Penn Valley marijuana grow, the pair admitted their role in the death and agreed to testify against a third man, 29-year-old Finley Fultz, at his murder trial.
Now Philbrook, 34, and Devencenzi, 33, will receive shortened sentences because of the Sept. 30 passage of Senate Bill 1437. The law is retroactive, Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.
“It means he’s going to get less time,” Walsh said. “It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the felony murder rule.”
Defense attorney David Alkire, who represents Philbrook, said he’s discussing the new sentence with Walsh. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Nov. 9 in Nevada County Superior Court.
“The change directly affects his sentence,” Alkire said.
It’s unknown what sentence Philbrook, who also pleaded to attempted second-degree robbery, will receive. Walsh said Devencenzi, who pleaded to manslaughter only, could get two to three years in jail on an attempted robbery accusation.
That sentence would mean Devencenzi could be freed after his re-sentencing, which hasn’t been scheduled.
Defense attorney Kenneth Tribby, who represents Devencenzi, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The anticipated change in the mens’ sentences stems from a change in the felony murder rule.
Before the bill’s passage, someone who participated in a robbery during which a person was killed could be charged with murder even if he or she wasn’t the triggerman.
“That’s not the case anymore,” Walsh said.
Aiding and abetting is no longer enough for someone who participated in a deadly crime, but didn’t kill the person, to face a murder charge.
A murder charge remains pending against Fultz. Judge Tom Anderson last month called a mistrial in Fultz’s case. District Attorney Cliff Newell has said the judge determined evidence violations led to the mistrial. Defense attorney Greg Klein, who represents Fultz, has called the violations prosecutorial misconduct.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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