2:16 PM: We’re in the courtroom of King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, who is presiding right now over the sentencing hearing for 21-year-old Sean Jeardoe. We first reported on his case after his arrest in a stolen truck in the West Seattle Thriftway parking lot last summer; he was not charged immediately, but was arrested again in connection with multiple other cases. As reported here in December, he confessed to 22 burglaries, not just in West Seattle, but in other areas of King County, and struck a deal to plead guilty to 14 charges – eight of them residential burglaries, plus three auto-theft-related charges and three gun-theft charges. The recommended sentence is eight and a half years. We’ll update as this goes.
2:20 PM: The prosecutor says some of his victims are in court and six letters have been submitted to the judge as well. (This was originally scheduled for a different judge, but as we noticed while covering another case last week, the sentencing calendars sometimes move around.) There’s now a short delay because the judge has ordered the defendant be unshackled for the proceedings. A second courthouse deputy had to be called; he said that it’s policy for the restraints NOT to be removed for this type of hearing, but she ordered it anyway.
The prosecutor says Jeardoe actually eventually confessed to 31 burglaries. “Coming into this from a negotiation standpoint, the state acknowledges he has no (felony) history. He appears to have a drug addiction….” He mentions that Jeardoe pointed out much of what he did; the judge asks if he helped them get some victims’ property back. Some, yes, the prosecutor says, but “there are still countless pieces of jewelry that have been melted down or gone off into pawn shops …” He now mentions that a residential burglary affects a victim forever, with sense of security, separate from whether the items can be replaced. “Based on the number of crimes and magnitude of this crime spree, the state is NOT recommending the low-end sentence or a prison-based (drug treatment) DOSA sentence.”
Before hearing from victims, the judge says she has something to say: “Mr.Jeardoe by operation of law gets credit for the time he’s already served – six months – so the maximum sentence I have to impose is 8 years … and (he will be) eligible for up to 50 percent ‘good time,’ so his sentence could be as low as 4 years. … So whatever age he’s going to be when released, I have to think about … what will protect the community.” She says she’s “looking seriously” at the drug-treatment-sentence request of the defense, which would be a mid-range sentence, and once he’s out, if he messes up again, he will have to go back for the rest of the full term. Now, she says, she welcomes victims to speak, now that they know what she’s thinking.
2:30 PM: Now a man whose home was broken into and vehicle stolen last August is speaking. “I hope Mr. Jeardoe realizes that not all the damage he’s done can be expressed in dollars and cents.” He speaks of losing items that were of great sentimental value, as well as financial records, house and vehicle keys, information that could make him vulnerable to ID theft. That said, he says he realizes that Jeardoe is a young man and hopefully can turn his life around.
The defense lawyer says Jeardoe’s history of addiction “was based in his childhood.” She calls attention to the fact his crime spree was over a matter of months but says his addiction is a serious problem and if not dealt with, he could wind up back in these straits again. Now Jeardoe’s father is speaking. He thanks victims for coming to court. He says they adopted him as a baby and he was subject to alcohol and drugs “in utero” but says that is no excuse. He has long been getting counseling for substance abuse, Jeardoe’s father says, and also mentions he spent a year in intensive treatment out of state and ‘did very well’ but relapsed upon returning here. He says his son needs to pay for his crimes but also needs some sort of “mandatory drug treatment.”
2:35 PM: Jeardoe speaks, turning to the gallery and saying “I know it’s not enough to say I’m sorry …” as he apologizes. Judge Shaffer says she has seen many burglary victims: “It’s always devastating, always. …There’s this destroyed sense of security – people never really feel they can sleep securely after that.” What he was doing “was devastating,” she admonishes him. Especially stealing some items that “can’t be gotten back.” She mentions that one victim for which this was particularly devastating was a West Seattle man who he used to live across the street from, “and they couldn’t believe he would do this to them” – it roiled the whole neighborhood. “This is a big deal, you’ve done a lot of wrong here.” She tells him “the work of getting clean and sober” is the best way he can apologize. She asks him to prove to his victims he can do that hard work. She says, “I want all the victims to know the court takes what happened very seriously but I want to make sure there are no more victims in Mr. Jeardoe’s history.” She says DOSA is “not an easy way to go” and that if he doesn’t do well he will go right back into prison. And she orders it. So this means, according to what the prosecutor just said, his prison time will total less than half of what prosecutors had sought – 44.7 months. He would then be on probation (community custody) for a roughly equal time once he gets out. The treatment, she explains, will likely start closer to release. (DOSA – drug offender sentencing alternative – is explained here.) There also will be a hearing on restitution – “all the restitution the state can prove within (the next six months, per law)” – for victims.