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August 22, 2011

Texas man gets 220-year state sentence for kiddie porn possession (and uncharged child rapes)

This local piece, headlined "220 years handed out in porn case; Stacked sentences are among longest in memory," discussing a (record-long?) Texas sentence has many interesting (and sad) elements concerning modern sentencing discretion and the justification for extremely long prison terms.  Here are the details:

A San Antonio man convicted by a jury in June of downloading hardcore prepubescent child pornography was ordered Friday to serve 220 years in stacked sentences — one of the longest punishments prosecutors said they could recall, locally or elsewhere.

Paul Joseph Lamarre, 43, initially faced up to 10 years in prison for each of the 22 counts of possession of child porn.  But convictions related to child exploitation and molestation are among the few crimes in Texas that judges are allowed to stack.

Prosecutors in Bexar County tend to ask for consecutive sentences only in “extraordinary” circumstances, and this one qualified as such, Assistant District Attorneys Patrick Ballantyne and Stephen Ahl said after state District Judge Maria Teresa Herr announced her decision. “This is not a man exploring the outer bounds of his sexuality,” Ballantyne said during closing arguments to the judge. “He is an active sexual predator.”

Prosecutors called two women to the stand who each tearfully recalled Lamarre molesting them between the ages of 5 and 13.  “It's pretty much ruined my life,” one of the women said, explaining that, among other things, Lamarre would put cash and lingerie in her drawer for her to wear during the rapes. “I suffer from severe, severe depression. I can't hold a stable relationship.”

The other woman recalled Lamarre filming her in the bathtub and waking up in the middle of the night with him on top of her, naked and with a video camera. “He stole my innocence from me,” she said.

But Lamarre had a lot of time to think about his actions while in jail, defense attorneys Richard Langlois and William Brooks countered, adding that he never got in trouble while free on bond.  Prosecutors initially offered Lamarre a five-year prison sentence as part of a plea agreement he rejected, Langlois pointed out.  That offer was made before child molestation allegations surfaced, prosecutors said.

Given the revelations during the punishment hearing, it was an “ideal time” to seek what amounts to life in prison without parole, District Attorney Susan Reed said. “It's not just possessing an image,” she said. “It's victimizing someone, and that leads to other things which we saw in this particular incidence where he's abusing young children.”

It seems to me that Lamarre did not really get 220 years as a sentence for possessing 22 images of child porn, nor that prosecutors sought stacked sentences because of his kiddie porn downloading.  Rather, it seem pretty clear based on this news report that Lamarre (deservedly) received an extremely long sentence because he molested two girls for nearly a decade.

As reported here, I am not all that troubled that Lamarre will rot the rest of his life away in a Texas prison.  But I wonder if others are troubled by the reality that his sentencing fate was really the result of crimes for which he was not formally charged and convicted.  I also wonder just (1) why prosecutors were willing to offer a plea deal of only five years without having investigated Lamarre's history, (2) why Lamarre decided to turn down such a deal given his history, and (3) whether this evidence of prior extreme molestation would have ever been unearched if Lamarre had taken the deal.

August 22, 2011 at 04:07 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"I also wonder just (1) why prosecutors were willing to offer a plea deal of only five years without having investigated Lamarre's history..."

Because prosecutors, like other human beings, can get really lazy.

"(2) why Lamarre decided to turn down such a deal given his history..."

Because the capacity for denial and self-justification is astonishing, especially (although not limited to) criminal defendants.

"and (3) whether this evidence of prior extreme molestation would have ever been unearched if Lamarre had taken the deal."

50-50 on that one, but only because one of the victims might have read about his case in the paper and called the prosecutor.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 22, 2011 5:03:32 PM

my only problem with it is this continual CRIMINAL use of UNCHARGED and UNCONVICGTED conduct!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 22, 2011 6:35:40 PM

(1) Because 5 years is a reasonable compromise sentence for downloading child pornography.

(2) Because people don't always do what's in their own best interest, and because this guy didn't want to do 5 years, and because he was probably psychologically incapable of admitting out loud that he had any interest in child pornography.

(3) The prior evidence probably would not have come up if he had taken the five years, at least not in the context of his child pornography case. Of course, he probably didn't want to bother his lawyer with such trifling details, so the lawyer couldn't do a whole lot for the guy when they emerged. I'm constantly amazed how often people think no one will ever find out about their prior convictions, much less uncharged accusations.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 22, 2011 9:07:40 PM

Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, and received a long prison term that reflected his mass murders. In 123D, 3 could be a shop lifting charge and the defendant is a drug kingpin. He gets the death penalty for shoplifting. IN crime management and prevention, the person is the key, less so the actus reus.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 23, 2011 2:09:25 AM

(1) People often hide their molestation out of shame and abuse. That's not often something that is easy to learn in an investigation, unless you know who to ask and that person admits being molested.

(2) He obviously didn't think that the prosecutors would find out about it, or that it would matter to his sentencing if they did.

(3) All depends on the children (now women) he molested and whether they learned of the deal somehow, through the media or through others who know them and/or about their molestation.

Posted by: domino | Aug 23, 2011 8:04:00 AM

Troubled? Absolutely. Seems to me to be a huge due process issue to, essentially, be punished for crimes one was never convicted of.

That said, I think it will probably always happen and I'm not sure there's a real easy solution for it. Case in point is OJ. Many would say he got away with a double homicide, only to get smacked when he went up for robbery (and one could even argue that's *more* troubling, in that he's being punished for crimes he was actually acquitted of).

Posted by: Guy | Aug 23, 2011 10:35:58 AM

Isnt there a supreme court case that says you can't give someone a greater punishment unless the enhancements and so forth are found beyond reasonable doubt by a jury? A case that has been cited over and over on this blog? Why doesn't that case apply here? Why doesn't this particular guy end up winning a reverse/remand on appeal and be put on trial for multiple counts of child sexual abuse which is what he got "back door" convicted on here.

It is the worst cases, cases like this, that result in bad law, and that show that the need for constitutional principles being upheld is greater than any one defendant.

This guy should get life without parole IF he is convicted of the proper crimes. Back dooring major charges in sentencing hearings for far more minor charges is shockingly abusive.

Posted by: kk | Sep 7, 2011 6:41:42 PM

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