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This is why we have gun bans.....

Discussion in 'Uncategorized Threads' started by Brian in Oregon, Sep 7, 2008.

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  1. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    25,238
    Location:
    Deplorable Bitter Clinger in Liberal La La Land
    Because criminals committing crimes with guns do not effectively get punished. So incompetent politicians ban the guns of the law-abiding.<br>
    <br>
    Sweet deal for informant leaves a sour aftertaste<br>
    BY TODD COOPER<br>
    WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER<br>
    <br>
    Clarence Dennis bragged about spraying an AK-47 at a rival during a firefight on Omaha streets.<br>
    <br>
    He proudly described himself as a "professional jacker," saying he robs drug dealers.<br>
    <br>
    He brandished a weapon, hogtied his victims and committed four robberies in five weeks.<br>
    <br>
    For that, Dennis, 48, faced up to 400 years in prison.<br>
    <br>
    He got two to four.<br>
    <br>
    The reason?<br>
    <br>
    Dennis was the star witness in two of the biggest trials of 2008:<br>
    <br>
    The federal drug conspiracy case against two men accused of killing three people, and the death-penalty case against Roy Ellis in the murder of 12-year-old Amber Harris.<br>
    <br>
    Dennis' testimony in those two cases helped prosecutors secure convictions — and led to what Dennis' own attorney called "the deal of a lifetime."<br>
    <br>
    Put simply, the man whose street name is "Sugar Bear" got himself a sweet deal.<br>
    <br>
    And it seems no one except Dennis is savoring the plea bargain.<br>
    <br>
    Not the judge who sentenced Dennis. Not a man who was robbed by Dennis. Not prosecutors who made the deal. And certainly not Ellis attorney Patrick Dunn, who plans to cite the deal in an attempt to get a new trial.<br>
    <br>
    "I'm not very happy about it," Dunn said.<br>
    <br>
    Even Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he had to swallow hard before granting Dennis the deal. Though he tries to limit the use of informants, Kleine said, it sometimes takes criminals to help convict worse criminals.<br>
    <br>
    But what Dunn isn't happy about has to do with whether prosecutors complied with a state law requiring them to disclose deals with jailhouse informants.<br>
    <br>
    Because informants' testimony "may be unreliable," state law says, prosecutors must disclose "any deal, promise, inducement or benefit the state . . . has made or may make in the future to the jailhouse informer."<br>
    <br>
    That law isn't easily enforced, attorneys say. Prosecutors rarely come to an agreement on sentence lengths before a witness takes the stand, because they want to ensure the informant gives credible testimony. And that leaves defense attorneys in a lurch as they wonder how to expose to a jury how much motive a witness has to fabricate testimony.<br>
    <br>
    "It's a complicated issue," said Clarence Mock, a longtime defense attorney and former prosecutor. "As a defense attorney, I want to expose these guys and their motives to lie as much as possible.<br>
    <br>
    "But I also recognize that no competent prosecutor would guarantee a term of years until the witness has fulfilled his end of the bargain."<br>
    <br>
    The problem, Dunn said, is that he didn't know how much time Dennis had bargained away. Dunn said he will ask for a new trial for Ellis because of what he calls a lack of disclosure. Ellis faces a death penalty hearing Sept. 25.<br>
    <br>
    "The bottom line is: They're required to give us what he's getting for his testimony," Dunn said. "That's what I want in front of the jury. And that's what we weren't given."<br>
    <br>
    Kleine said there were two reasons prosecutors didn't disclose the sentence length:<br>
    <br>
    Dennis didn't qualify as a jailhouse informant because he had bailed out of jail at the time of the Ellis trial.<br>
    <br>
    More importantly, Kleine said, a deal on years hadn't been made.<br>
    <br>
    "We didn't know what he would get," Kleine said. "Clarence Dennis didn't know what he would get."<br>
    <br>
    Dennis' public defender, Kelly Steenbock, acknowledged Dennis received the "deal of a lifetime," but said it was earned.<br>
    <br>
    She said Dennis risked his life by testifying against three men accused of murder. And he did so effectively, she said.<br>
    <br>
    Steenbock said a federal prosecutor indicated that Dennis was refreshingly honest in the drug conspiracy case against Dale Giles and Charmar Brown. Both got life sentences.<br>
    <br>
    And after finding Ellis guilty of murder, several jurors said Dennis' testimony was candid and credible.<br>
    <br>
    At Ellis' April trial, Dennis was one of four men to testify about incriminating comments Ellis made while they were in jail with him. Ellis, they said, talked about the kidnapping and death of Amber Harris.<br>
    <br>
    Dennis recounted the most damning comments. He said he overheard Ellis say he "strangled the little (expletive) while he was (raping) her and that he busted (her) in the head."<br>
    <br>
    Dennis delivered that line twice — at a hearing in July 2007 and at trial in April 2008.<br>
    <br>
    Both times he paused, raised his palm to his mouth and spoke, his voice cracking.<br>
    <br>
    Dennis' testimony was buttressed by the testimony of Douglas County corrections officers and other inmates who described Ellis as obsessed with Amber and decomposing bodies.<br>
    <br>
    And it was challenged, repeatedly, by Dunn.<br>
    <br>
    Under Dunn's questioning, Dennis acknowledged that he was after a reduced sentence but said he hadn't been guaranteed a set number of years.<br>
    <br>
    "A wink and a nod and (prosecutors) will take care of you later?" Dunn asked.<br>
    <br>
    "There ain't been nothing like that," Dennis testified.<br>
    <br>
    Recounting that exchange recently, Dunn said, "That's exactly what happened, isn't it?"<br>
    <br>
    "I don't expect Clarence Dennis to do anything but what Clarence Dennis did," Dunn said. "Don't lay the blame on him. There's someplace else the finger needs to be pointed on this."<br>
    <br>
    Kleine called it "ludicrous" to suggest that prosecutors were deceptive or "somehow hid the ball" on Dennis' deal. Kleine said he made it clear to jurors that Dennis was going to get consideration for testifying.<br>
    <br>
    However, he said, prosecutors cannot promise a term of years to informants before they testify.<br>
    <br>
    If the sentence was decided before the testimony, Kleine said, an informant could get on the stand and recant his comments or minimize a defendant's acts.<br>
    <br>
    Defense attorneys wonder if the opposite is true. They question how much informants embellish their accounts to curry a lighter sentence.<br>
    <br>
    Dennis certainly ended up with one.<br>
    <br>
    On July 15, Dennis appeared before Judge Patricia Lamberty for four robberies, four counts of weapon use and two check frauds. Prosecutors earlier had dismissed another robbery and gun case.<br>
    <br>
    From Oct. 31 through Dec. 9 in 2005, Dennis and an accomplice committed four robberies.<br>
    <br>
    Dennis showed a gun at every one, hogtied his victims and ransacked four businesses: Family Dollar, Tobacco World, EB Games and Seig Drugs. Dennis stole mostly cash but made the biggest haul from the pharmacy: nearly $4,000 worth of prescription drugs.<br>
    <br>
    This summer, after Ellis' trial, Kleine and Steenbock met and agreed on the two- to four-year term.<br>
    <br>
    Prosecutor Jennifer Meckna called the victims and informed them that, because of his testimony against Ellis and against drug kingpins Giles and Brown, Dennis was going to receive a "significant windfall" on his sentence.<br>
    <br>
    Some victims said they were OK with it. At least one did not.<br>
    <br>
    An EB Games employee who was tied up with a phone cord by Dennis told prosecutors that Dennis should be "put away for as long as possible."<br>
    <br>
    Lamberty expressed her own reservations before going along with the deal.<br>
    <br>
    She noted the violent nature of Dennis' crimes and his record. In 1978, he was convicted of two robberies and three weapons charges.<br>
    <br>
    For those convictions, he was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison — and ended up serving 24 years before he was paroled in 2002.<br>
    <br>
    In the most recent case, his sentence is cut in half under state sentencing guidelines. With credit for time served, Dennis will be eligible for parole next month. If he isn't paroled, he likely will be released in October 2009.<br>
    <br>
    Federal prosecutors also agreed not to pursue charges for his drug stealing or his firefight with Giles — a shooting that resulted in no injuries.<br>
    <br>
    "Obviously, Mr. Dennis, you're getting a huge break and you are being rewarded for (your) cooperation with both the feds and the state in this matter," Lamberty said. "Under any other circumstances, you would not be getting this sentence."<br>
    <br>
    Kleine said he has his own misgivings about Dennis' sentence, wondering if he should have required Dennis to serve more time. Without his testimony, Kleine acknowledged, Dennis would have spent a significant amount of time — perhaps the rest of his life — in prison.<br>
    <br>
    But Dennis' testimony was credible, Kleine said, and was one key to convicting Ellis.<br>
    <br>
    "Roy Ellis brutally murdered Amber Harris," Kleine said. "We thought this was such a serious case and so important that we had to deal with some people that we don't normally deal with."<br>
    <br>
    Now, Dennis is serving his time in isolation at the Lincoln Correctional Center. Steenbock said Dennis has lupus, lung cancer and something more ominous: enemies who want his head.<br>
    <br>
    Despite his deal, Dennis has called prosecutors with further requests. At one point, he wanted out of isolation. At another point, he wanted a television so he could watch college football.<br>
    <br>
    To both requests, prosecutors told him no. They could do no more.
     
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