Judge sends seven-time offender to treatment
A Nevada City man convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for attacking his ex-girlfriend with kitchen knives is serving a year in a residential treatment program for violating his probation for the seventh time, court documents show.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti sentenced Scott E. Thomas, 34, to a year at the Salvation Army drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Healdsburg earlier this month.
The decision has frustrated law enforcement officials. Grass Valley police have arrested Thomas nine times within the last seven years for a variety of offenses, including domestic violence and drug possession, according to court and police records.
But others argue that a residential treatment program – help that Thomas has not received in the past – offers more hope for changing Thomas’ behavior than prison.
Grass Valley Police Capt. Dave Remillard said Thomas has not responded to probation in the past and should go to prison.
“We’re constantly dealing with these repeat offenders,” Remillard said. “This guy has been a thorn in our side for a long time.”
Local judges are too lenient with people like Thomas, he said.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, and no one’s a lost cause,” Remillard said. “But how many chances do we need to give these people?”
But prison doesn’t address the underlying drug and alcohol problems that cause criminal behavior – and only makes them worse, said Gregory Klein, a lawyer who represents many criminal defendants at the Nevada County courthouse.
“I don’t think (prison) does anything for the defendant,” said the Nevada City lawyer, who represented Thomas in an earlier phase of the case.
“It’s a humanity issue,” Klein said. “When you send someone to prison, you’re telling them, essentially, ‘You’re human garbage.’ I think Judge (Tamietti) believes (Thomas) is a savable human.”
Meanwhile, Thomas has told the court he is “ready to run the race of life” in an attempt to overcome his addictions.
A conviction just the start
Nevada County sheriff’s deputies arrested Thomas on Jan. 4, 2003, for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
Thomas used his fists and a set of kitchen knives to break the woman’s collar bone, puncture her lung and break her nose, according to court records.
For that crime, former Nevada County Superior Court Judge Ersel Edwards sentenced Thomas in April 2003 to a year in the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility and three years of probation.
After his release from jail, Thomas’s urine tested positive for methamphetamine in May 2004, court records show. He failed to show up for an appointment with his probation officer and notify the probation department of a change of address in August 2004, court records show.
The district attorney’s office charged Thomas in September 2004 with violating probation.
Former county Superior Court Judge Albert Dover sentenced Thomas to 30 days in jail.
Some time after Thomas was released from jail, his blood tested positive for alcohol, according to court records. As part of the terms of his probation, Thomas was not allowed to possess or consume alcoholic beverages.
The DA’s office charged Thomas with a second probation violation in February 2005.
Dover sentenced Thomas again to 30 days in jail.
At this point, Remillard said, society would have been better served if Thomas had been sentenced to a treatment program.
“Maybe after the second violation, he could have gone to treatment,” he said. “We could have alleviated all of this earlier.”
In June 2005, the Grass Valley Police arrested Thomas on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, court records show, and the DA’s office charged him later in June with a third probation violation.
This time, former Superior Court Judge John Darlington sentenced Thomas to 60 days in jail.
Grass Valley Police arrested Thomas again in December 2005 on suspicion of disturbing the peace by peeping into an inhabited building. The DA charged Thomas with his fourth probation violation later that December.
“These repeat offenders aren’t taking judges seriously, and the judges don’t realize it,” Remillard said. “How many times does this need to happen?”
Didn’t attend violence program
Thomas didn’t show up for his arraignment for the alleged peeping, according to court records, so Darlington issued a warrant for his arrest.
On Feb. 14, 2006, Darlington postponed sentencing and agreed to release Thomas from jail on the condition that he attend a batterers’ program. On Feb. 21, 2006, Thomas provided a letter to the court from the program’s coordinator that he was enrolled in anger management sessions.
Darlington sentenced Thomas to 90 days in jail in March 2006 for the latest, and fourth, probation violation, which he was supposed to begin serving April 2.
Five days before he was to start serving his jail term, Grass Valley police arrested Thomas on suspicion of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant.
Based on that arrest, the DA’s office charged Thomas with a fifth probation violation on March 29, 2006, and Thomas was released from jail on his own recognizance.
In May 2006, Judge Tamietti reinstated Thomas’ probation and ordered him to enroll in a batterers’ program.
Three days later , the California Highway Patrol arrested Thomas on suspicion of drunken driving, and he pleaded guilty.
In June 2006, former Nevada County Superior Court Judge Carl F. Bryan II granted Thomas an extension to provide proof of enrollment in the batterers’ program.
In July 2006, the DA charged Thomas with his sixth probation violation for the DUI arrest.
Thomas provided proof of his enrollment in the batterers’ program to the court later in July, and Tamietti allowed him to be released from jail on his own recognizance with the condition that he stay away from alcohol.
In August 2006, Tamietti ordered Thomas to bring another letter from his anger management counselor, which he did.
According to court records submitted by the probation department, Thomas failed to report to his probation officer in September 2006. But by November 2006, Thomas was attending a batterers’ program, court documents show.
According to a March 2007 probation report, Thomas apparently had stopped the violence counseling classes.
Two days later, on March 12, the DA’s office charged Thomas with his seventh violation of probation.
The probation department recommended to the court that Thomas remain jailed until he was sentenced for his seventh parole violation, records show.
The DA’s office also denied Thomas a place in Adult Drug Court.
Seventh violation “line in the sand”
Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson remanded Thomas to jail on March 13. Then Tamietti ordered him back to jail four more times until his sentencing on July 13.
In the interim, Thomas wrote the court a letter asking for treatment instead of prison.
“Your honor, I am ready to run the race of life. I have faith in myself through God,” the letter reads. “God is where I am going to through my endurance.”
In addition to his sentence of a year at the Salvation Army facility in Healdsburg, Tamietti extended Thomas’ supervised probation through Nov. 20, 2008.
The sentence was a slap on the wrist, Remillard said.
“The public needs to let judges know that they’re displeased with their decisions,” Remillard said. “How many lines in the sand are there in Nevada County?”
Klein disagreed, insisting some offenders need more than a few chances to change lifelong patterns of substance abuse and dysfunctional behavior.
“Judges understand and anticipate some people will fail one or two times,” Klein said. “Not only do (offenders) have to decide to quit (abusing drugs), but they have to move and get all new friends. It’s a complete overhaul.”
Every county has its unspoken rules when it comes to sentencing, Klein said, and Nevada County’s judges will often sentence someone to probation or treatment a few times before sending them to jail or prison, depending on the offense.
But in Kern County, where judges are known for much harsher sentencing, he said, someone like Thomas would most likely be headed for prison.
“I think (Tamietti) still has some hope in the human spirit,” he said. “Maybe he’s sensitive to (prison) overcrowding. Maybe he shouldn’t be. But he actually thinks about these things.”
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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