Wednesday, March 21 - After a two hour hearing in Holbrook before Judge Fred Newton, the decision on the release of Steven Garnett, Jr. and Martin Woods was that they will spend their Spring Break back in jail.
This is a middle-of-the-road position for the judge. The victims asked for a completed jail term and the defendants' lawyer said there was evidence that the two defendants were behaving well outside jail and there was no reason for them to go back for any time.
Victims and parents of victims testified that there was long term and perhaps permanent damage to their sons, their families and themselves. They spoke of behavior changes among the victims. One incident with the defendants was seen by a victim's parent, where Woods and Garnett appeared in a car "cruising" by the Old Gym and making remarks to the high school track team.
Probation officers stated in sworn testimony that Garnett and Woods have overfulfilled their community service requirements, obeyed the terms of their intensive probation with only small deviations, and generally outperformed the average person on probation.
Steven Garnett, Sr. said that he had asked the probation office to check on his boys twice as often as they normally did, to be sure the terms of probation were being carried out exactly. He also said that home requirements were even stricter than those of the probationary sentence.
There were heartfelt words spoken on both sides. The attorney for the state, Joel Ruechel of the Navajo County Attorney's Office, said that he did not want to see the sentence first imposed, now modified. The attorney for the defense, Bruce Griffen of Flagstaff, told the judge,"These gentlemen have not let you down and they will not let you down," as he sought leniency for the defendants.
Judge Newton in his summation said, "Decisions in this case continue to be very difficult." On the legal issue, Newton said that he did not feel his order could be characterized as a modification of the sentence, since release for education was part of the original sentencing statement. It would be reasonable, he added, to look at modification based on performance.
Newton listed things said in court that were important to him. These included the fact that intensive probation, meaning nearly house arrest, was also a punishment. He spoke of his concern that further jail time could negatively influence Martin Woods and that Woods is now doing all the tasks assigned under intensive probation. Both defendants have enrolled in school and are attending faithfully. Newton said that having them in school is in the long term best interests of both the state and society.
In his consideration of the effect on the victims, Newton said, "It is very important to me."
The judge noted that some of the victims have not sought counseling and have evidently adjusted and moved on, while others are struggling with a depressing effect. Newton said that "perhaps a problem of rumor in a small town more than violations" is the cause of so many stories about violation of probation. In one instance, rumor said the boys were in a certain place and misbehaving, when they were still in jail. Newton said, "I cannot find major effort for inappropriate contact with victims."
On the other hand, the judge recognized that some of the defendants had served more time that the two who received the longest sentences, and said he recognized that this was not fair. Newton noted that the defendants are in a stage between being juveniles and being adults, therefore the court is not just concerned with punishment.
Newton ordered the two defendants to return to jail for their Spring Break, a week beginning March 26 and ending April 1. The judge noted that this is not enough to meet the requests of the victims, but Spring Break is important for young men and this will take it away from them.
"I've not given up on them," Newton said, "and I've not given up on the victims."
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