Coulter Mann's DUI sentence stands

By Aaron West / The Del Norte Triplicate

Coulter Mann's original three-year sentence for killing Kenneth Jones in a drunk driving crash stands.

After a brief and emotionally tense hearing on Thursday morning, the visiting judge who in March sentenced Mann to three years in state prison and then recalled his decision four days later, decided that the original three-year sentence was appropriate after all.

Mann, who was transported to Del Norte County from San Quentin State Prison for the hearing, will be returned to Marin County to serve the remainder of his sentence - a little more than a year in prison, which includes credit for the 158 days Mann has already served.

The resentencing, which packed the courthouse with both parties' families and supporters, largely focused on an evaluation that CDCR conducted over the past few months since Mann arrived at San Quentin in early March. That report, which concluded the judge's original sentence was appropriate, included assessments from both a correctional counselor as well as a psychologist. They determined that because Mann, who insists that alcohol wasn't a factor in the crash, doesn't take responsibility for his crime, he's a risk for repeating the behavior.

"There's a likelihood that if he's not in prison, the behavior will occur again," the report read.

Mann registered a 0.2 blood alcohol content about two hours after the crash but says he wasn't impaired and that the alcohol's absorption was delayed because of factors like food consumption, as well as pain and adrenaline caused by the crash.

This denial was the crux of the report, according to prosecution, and the principal reason that Deputy District Attorney Todd Zocchi argued Mann's sentence should not be reduced.

"'At this time there is no evidence that Mann has gained insight from this event,'" Zocchi said, reading from the report, during the hearing. "By Mann continuing to dispute facts he avoids culpability ... he might do it again."

Zocchi went on to say that Mann, who has publicly promised he wouldn't drink alcohol ever again, couldn't be trusted to keep that commitment if he didn't see alcohol as a cause to begin with.

"He deserves every bit of the next year he'll have to serve in state prison," Zocchi said.

Even though the sentence was for three years, Mann was only due to serve 545 days - now 387 with the credit - since the judge struck the great bodily injury enhancement from the original conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, according to Assistant District Attorney Katie Micks.

The defense used the report's more favorable conclusions - which were outweighed by the negative ones, the authors of the report wrote - to try to persuade Judge Richard Kalustian that his sentence recall was the right thing to do and that Mann deserves probation, not more time in prison.

Dain Weiner, Mann's attorney, pointed out that from the date of the accident until now Mann hadn't consumed any alcohol - "proof that he'll comply (with his promise)," Weiner said. Additionally, Weiner brought up the fact that Mann has a close family and a strong support system to keep him accountable.

"These factors suggest he's a candidate for probation," Weiner said. "There's no way this conduct will ever be repeated."

Zocchi, in his closing statement, said that Weiner's argument was flawed from the beginning, however.

"It's not about whether he'll commit the offense again, it's about the punishment," he said.

Kalustian agreed and ultimately ended up siding with prosecution and the prison's evaluation.

"I find it incredibly naive that (Mann) doesn't think alcohol played a part," Kalustian said before imposing the original sentence.

After the judge's decision, the victim's family - emotional after the months of indecision and waiting - gathered on the courthouse steps.

"I'm just glad it's finally done," Kendra Jones, Kenneth Jones' daughter said. "Nothing's going to bring back my dad."

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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