Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


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Court of Appeal Denies Bid for Resentencing of Hostage-Taker

Panel Says Defendant Waited Too Long to Object to Proposition 36 Hearing Before New Judge




A defendant seeking resentencing based on the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 forfeited his right to have the case heard by the original sentencing judge by not raising the issue in the trial court, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

 The court Monday certified for partial publication its Oct. 29 ruling affirming an Amador Superior Court judge’s order denying resentencing to Clifford Chaney, a third-strike offender whose past crimes include two Sacramento County robberies in which hostages were taken.

Judge Steven Hermanson ruled that early release of Chaney would endanger public safety, after hearing evidence that he had been convicted of eight “strike” offenses—six counts of armed robbery and two counts of burglary in the Sacramento County cases—before a different judge in that county sentenced Chaney to 25 years to life in prison for fourth-offense drunk driving in 2005.

In the Sacramento cases, Chaney and two other men were convicted of separate business invasion-robberies at the same location, in which hostages were taken at gunpoint.

Witnesses testified that Chaney and his accomplices raided the Sacramento Technicolor Laboratory twice in two weeks, hoping to steal precursor ingredients to make the rage-fueling hallucinogenic PCP, which they planned to turn around and sell to the Hells Angels. Between the robberies, more than 20 employees were bound by rope and duct tape while repeatedly having guns pointed at them.

While attempting to escape their second robbery, one of Chaney’s accomplices shot at Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Beck with a 12-gauge. Beck survived only because the round directly hit his badge.

The accomplice was killed by other Sacramento deputies.

Drunk-Driving Collision

After being released from a 12-year sentence in those cases, in 1995, he was convicted in Amador County of causing a head-on vehicle collision while driving drunk — a felony that left the other driver and two passengers seriously hurt and resulted in a two-year sentence.

According to the Auburn Journal’s report of last year’s hearing before Hermanson, Chaney was arrested in El Dorado County in 2002 for blasting his truck through the wall of a restaurant while drunk, severing a propane line, collapsing a wall down onto the cook and causing injuries, resulting in a one-year jail sentence.  By the time of the 2005 incident, his license had been revoked based on the El Dorado conviction.

During Chaney’s Proposition36 hearing in May of last year, the Journal reported, District Attorney Todd Riebe called the by-then-retired Sacramento sheriff’s deputy who had been shot during Chaney’s second armed robbery to the witness stand. Beck held up his badge with the bullet holes in it for the judge to inspect.

Riebe argued that Chaney’s release would endanger public safety because he was likely to continue driving while intoxicated, and the judge agreed.

Case Cited

On appeal, the defense argued that Chaney was denied his right to have the resentencing petition heard by the original sentencing judge, under People v. Superior Court (Kaulick) (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1279.

Justice Coleman Blease, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the right was subject to forfeiture.

“In a similar context, our court has held that where a defendant does not object to sentencing by a judge other than the one who accepted his plea, the defendant has forfeited his right to later contend he was entitled to have the original judge sentence him,” the justice wrote, citing People v. Serrato (1988) 201 Cal.App.3d 761.

In portions of the opinion that remain unpublished, the court held that the trial judge did not shift the burden of proof on the dangerousness issue to the defendant, that the defendant had forfeited his contention that the judge should have ordered preparation of a presentence report by the probation department prior to ruling on the petition, that the judge was not required to consider alcohol-related conditions of release as an alternative to denying the petition on the ground that the defendant’s history of alcohol abuse made him a danger to society, and that denying the petition on that ground was not an abuse of discretion.

Blease rejected the defense argument that Chaney’s lack of alcohol use since his return to prison undermined the trial judge’s dangerousness finding. Given the lack of evidence that the defendant “completed any alcohol abuse programs or otherwise rehabilitated himself from his alcoholism” and the proof that “alcoholism was the root of his criminality,” the trial judge was entitled to reach the conclusion he did, the justice wrote.

The case is People v. Chaney, 14 S.O.S. 5421.


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