Judge will take second run at decision in fatal DUI case
Coulter Mann, the former assistant principal whose original sentence for killing Kenneth Jones in a drunk driving crash was recalled by the judge, will be back in Del Norte Superior Court for resentencing on Thursday morning.
In a bizarre case of a judge recalling his original sentence, Mann will be back in court on Thursday at 9 a.m. for possible resentencing by visiting Judge Richard Kalustian, who in March sentenced Mann to three years in state prison before recalling his decision four days later. Mann has spent the past several months in San Quentin State Prison where he was being evaluated by staff there. That evaluation will recommend to the judge what an appropriate sentence might be.
Although Mann's 90-day evaluation in San Quentin was supposed to begin back in March when Kalustian recalled his decision, there was a delay due to miscommunication between the court and the prison as far as what prison staff were evaluating for. The evaluation began once that was cleared up.
"(The prison) needed clarification on what they were supposed to do," Deputy District Attorney Todd Zocchi said. "And once they got that from the court they completed the evaluation."
Zocchi said that the evaluation is similar to the probation report that was submitted to the court for the initial sentencing, only done by the state prison.
The Mann case, one of the most publicized cases in Del Norte in the past year, was made especially notable when Kalustian, who lives in Mendocino County, called all involved parties back to court on the Friday after his original sentencing and announced by speakerphone that he had decided to recall the sentence on his drive home from Del Norte.
Zocchi described the move in March as "bizarre and very disappointing andhellip; ," and in an objection to the recall that was filed with the court he brought up several points of concern.
In the objection - since overruled by Kalustian - Zocchi wrote that at the end of the sentencing on Monday, March 10, Edward Mann, who is the defendant's father and attorney, requested a brief private meeting with Kalustian that ultimately led to the judge changing his mind about the sentencing, which "blindsided the People and devastated the victim's
"The People were not invited and did not attend this meeting," Zocchi wrote. "It is unclear what was discussed."
Zocchi goes on to write that Edward Mann has improperly influenced at least two witnesses in the case and also that he improperly attempted to appeal to the emotions of a juror after the jury was discharged - "lamenting over how much time his son, the defendant, was facing and the death of his other son, while trying to reargue the case to this juror."
Additionally, Zocchi states that because Kalustian can't resentence the defendant to anything greater than the original three-year sentence, he has effectively capped the case in regard to the state prison's evaluation - "a self-fulfilling prophecy for an even lesser sentence."
In a response to the objection, Mann wrote that "every one of these allegations is emphatically and unequivocally denied."
He explains that the "private" meeting with Kalustian after sentencing wasn't actually private at all and took place at a "presumably attentive" secretary's desk.
"It had nothing to do with discussing the merits of the Mann case or his sentencing," Mann writes.
He goes on to say that the defense is forced to prove that it's innocent of various unfounded and unproven allegations, "all based on the conjecture of Prosecutor Zocchi.
"This is, unfortunately, a strategy which has allowed Prosecutor Zocchi to protray a hardworking, genuine, caring and self-sufficient man as someone to be vilified, scorned and hated."
Beyond the point and counterpoint, the fact that Kalustian has recalled his original sentence is undeniably
A judge's ability to recall a sentence, which falls under statute 1170(d) in the California Penal Code, allows judges in their discretion to reconsider a sentence within 120 days after sentencing, essentially to "take a mulligan," as Kyle Graham, an assistant professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law and former deputy district attorney in Mono County, put it.
"It allows them to resentence the defendant based on new facts or simply upon re-reflection of the facts presented to them earlier," Graham said. "That appears to be what the judge here did. That's quite uncommon. It's uncommon for a judge to exercise his or her discretion to recall a sentence. Because unless there are additional facts, very often the judge has to admit he or she made a mistake during the original sentencing."
Reach Aaron West at firstname.lastname@example.org.