Appeals court confirms Utah man’s life sentence for kidnapping

A Salt Lake City appeals court recently affirmed the life sentence of a Utah man for his conviction of aggravated kidnapping. The man appealed his sentence alleging that the judge abused his discretion in sentencing him to life without parole.

The appeals court characterized the man’s life sentence as “troubling” because this harsh punishment is usually reserved for capital offenses, but nevertheless affirmed all of the trial court’s rulings. The man was sentenced for a variety of crimes including aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, failing to respond to an officer’s signal to stop, and animal cruelty.

The convictions stemmed from a February 2009 incident where the man allegedly did drugs with his live-in girlfriend and became suspicious that she had a romantic relationship with their drug dealer. The situation eventually escalated and resulted in the man ramming the drug dealer’s truck with his own car at 58 miles per hour.

The girlfriend bailed out of the man’s car before the impact and suffered severe personal injuries. There was also a dog in the man’s car at the time of the crash which required surgery. This was where the animal cruelty charges stemmed from.

In deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing the man to life in prison without parole, the court considered that the presumptive sentence for aggravated kidnapping in Utah is 15 years to life. When a defendant causes serious bodily injury to a kidnapping victim, then the presumptive sentence is life in prison without parole under Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-302(3)(b).

“By establishing a presumptive sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole when aggravated kidnapping results in serious bodily injury, the Legislature clearly identified what it considers to be an appropriate sentence for this serious crime,” the appeals court wrote. “Here, the trial court’s sentence was consistent with the presumptive sentence under section 76-5-302(3)(b) of the Utah Code. We therefore conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a sentence that precludes the Board of Pardons and Parole from performing its usual role in Defendant’s case.”

Source: State v. Lebeau, 715 Utah Adv. Rep. 46, Aug. 23, 2012

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