Revolving door prisons series in freep - 1985
reuolvinn dcor prisons DETROIT FREE PRESSMONDAY, SEPT. 23, 1985 9A rr lchi8an's nine-year-old felony firearm law I I requires a mandatory two-year prison sen-I 1J I tence for Possession of a gun in commission LJwLJ of a felony. A second conviction carries a mandatory five-year sentence; a third conviction, 10 years. The law says the sentence must be served before the sentence for the crime in which the gun was used and cannot be shortened by good time, disciplinary credits or the 90-day credits provided by the Prison Overcrowding Emergency Powers Act. Although the Corrections Department is not short-, ening gun-term sentences with such credits, the Free Press found that it has been allowing inmates to accumulate credits from the Prison Overcrowding Emergency Powers Act while serving the gun term and deducting the credits from the subsequent sentences. The practice, which stopped when Gov. Blan-chard quit invoking the law in December 1984, has enabled many prisoners to be paroled after serving their gun terms and little or nothing of their other felony sentences. Several Michigan prosecutors claim the practice is illegal; corrections officials insist it isn't. Here's how the policy affected the sentences of two people paroled by the department in 1983: Wilson Fell, 27, Datioit BACKGROUND: Fair robbed a McDonald's restaurant on Detroit's east side in October 1980. Witnesses said he jumped over the counter, pulled a nickel-plated revolver and demanded money. He fled with $700 and was arrested two months later after employes identified him through a police mug shot. Fair pleaded guilty to armed robbery and possession of a gun in commission of a felony. SENTENCE: One to 10 years for armed robbery plus two years for using the gun, imposed July 27, 1981. (Because of 12 days he spent in jail before he was sentenced, his sentence legally began July 1 5, 1981.) CRIMINAL HISTORY: Fair committed the robbery three months after completing a one-year probation sentence for car theft. AFTERMATH: Fair was paroled in July 1983 after serving the gun term and none of the armed robbery sentence. His robbery sentence was wiped out by Emergency Powers Act credits he received while serving the gun term. Ten months after his parole, Fair shot Obra Pernell, 36, during a robbery attempt on Detroit's east side. Pernell said Fair walked up to Pernell's car, fired three warning shots and demanded his money. When Pernell sped away, Fair shot him in the shoulder. Fair was arrested and convicted of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder and possession of a gun in commission of a felony. Recorder's Court Judge Clarice Jobes sentenced him to five to 10 years in . prison plus two years for using the gun. Jobes said she didn't realize until the Free Press told her that it was Fair's second firearm conviction, which carries a five-year mandatory term. Jobes said she would have preferred resentencing Fair to five years, but could not do so because of a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling. (The court ruled last year that prosecutors must charge the defendant as a repeat offender for the longer sentence to apply.) STATUS: Fair is at Muskegon Correctional Facility and will be eligible for parole in May 1990, according to the department. Charles Edward Thomas, 23, Detroit 4 BACKGROUND: Police arrested Thomas and a companion in April 1980 as they were breaking Into a Detroit supermarket. The next year, while free on bond, Thomas was involved in two armed robberies. He was arrested and later convicted of armed rob-bery, unarmed robbery, attempted burglary and possession of a gun in com mission of a felony. SENTENCE: One to 15 years for the robberies and attempted burglary, plus two years for the gun, imposed in March 1982. (Because of 10 months he spent in jail before he was sentenced, his sentence legally began in April 1981.) CRIMINAL HISTORY: None. AFTERMATH: He was paroled in May 1983 after serving the two-year gun term and 41 days of his remaining sentence. The Emergency Powers Act credits he received while serving the gun term wiped out 1QVt months of his remaining one-year minimum sentence. Thus, he ended up serving only 41 days for armed robbery, unarmed robbery and attempted burglary. STATUS: Ten months after his parole, Thomas took a color television and $50 in a burglary on Detroit's northwest side. Four days later he and two companions assaulted two men in their northwest home. One of the victims was shot five times, but survived. Thomas, arrested a short time after the shooting, was convicted in separate proceedings of burglary, felonious assault and possession of a gun in commission of a felony. Wayne County Circuit Judge Helene White, who handled the assault and felony firearm case as an exchange judge in Recorder's Court, said she didn't realize until the Free Press told her that it was Thomas' second firearm conviction because the prosecutor did not call it to her attention. Although a second conviction requires a mandatory five-year prison sentence, the recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling prevents her from altering the sentence because the prosecutor had not charged Thomas as a repeat offender on the gun charge. Thomas, at Camp Tuscola in the Thumb, will be eligible for parole in July 1987.