West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Nicholas Broughton sentenced

(January 2014 photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
On a Friday night back in January, 33-year-old Nicholas Broughton drew the attention of thousands by driving that stolen SUV through a fence near a relative’s home west of The Junction, with the Guardian One helicopter overhead, tracking him through the LoJack device in the SUV. He was arrested, jailed, and charged, described by prosecutors as an “11-time felon.” In the ensuing months, Broughton got out on bond, then was charged with identity theft related to cards stolen in earlier car prowls.

Other developments since his January arrest include the Labor Day incident in which he and his girlfriend both bolted when pulled over by police, two days after he pleaded guilty to most of the aforementioned charges. The official record listed her as being in King County Superior Court today when Judge Catherine Shaffer sentenced Broughton for possession of a stolen vehicle, hit and run, and two counts of second-degree identity theft. The sentence, same as what prosecutors had recommended, totals (see the document here) a little over four years in prison, with credit for the two months Broughton has served since the January arrest. He will be on probation, aka “community custody,” for a year after he gets out.

7 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Nicholas Broughton sentenced"

  • Chuck & Sally's Van Man September 26, 2014 (9:05 pm)

    While I wish it were more, 4 years in prison is nothing to sneeze at.

    This jerk worked hard to earn his hard time.

    Enjoy yourself, moron.

  • Eric1 September 26, 2014 (11:15 pm)

    Hmmm 33 years old and an 11 time convicted felon means you pretty much average a felony a year.
    What is worse is that this means that the average sentence for a felony is approximately a year. This is where I question the prosecutors: How do you settle only on 4 years for this guy? I get that these may not all be “strikes” but 11 felonies should get you some extra time since he has not shown an ability to learn from his mistakes. Plus I am sure his identity theft victims feel really good about a judge letting him out on bond while waiting for trial/sentencing.

    • WSB September 26, 2014 (11:23 pm)

      The prosecutors’ presentation at the WS Block Watch Captains’ Network the other night got into some of this – and I’m expecting to carve out some time this weekend to process it into some sort of coherent story. There is a MASSIVE document (already linked on the WSBWCN website at http://wsblockwatch.wordpress.com ) that has the guidelines, the codes, the explanations … And it’s very clear that even though these are the crimes that most frequently disturb and disrupt citizens’ lives, there’s still a big line drawn (ultimately, in the Legislature’s realm) between “non-violent” and (the luckily very rare) violent crimes.

  • JK September 27, 2014 (7:53 am)

    Regarding violent vs. non-violent crimes – I wonder what a two tier system would do. I never hear about ‘hard labor’ sentences any more, is it still around? What if violent criminals were given hard labor and non-violent ones just got time? Or was breaking rocks and digging ditches ruled to be against human rights or some such? Anyway, I’d like to see prison be a deterrent and not a lifestyle.

  • waterworld September 27, 2014 (3:47 pm)

    As someone who has worked in criminal justice for over 20 years, I have a somewhat different perspective on this case and the issues it raises.
    First, Eric1: The sentence imposed on one person in one case does not mean that the average sentence for a felon is one year. Crime statistics for Washington are available at the Caseload Forecast Council website. In 2013, the average sentence for a “property” crime in Washington was 33.4 months, and the average sentence for anyone sentenced to prison was 39.8 months. As for the specific crimes Broughton was convicted of (which is hard to tell without knowing which charge was dropped as part of his plea agreement), the sentence he received was higher than average for each of the crimes, as far as I can tell.
    Second, every felony sentence in this state is adjusted upward for a person’s criminal history. A defendant is assigned an “offender score” based on his past crimes, and that score increases the sentence. I have not read anything that tells us what Broughton’s criminal history consists of, or what his offender score was. Every time this story is updated, the phrase “11-time convicted felon” is repeated, but that is incredibly vague. It doesn’t help determine what his sentence will be. (Also, although I assume the prosecutor means that the defendant has 11 felony convictions, that phrase can also be read to mean he has 11 convictions, some of which are felonies.)
    JK: Most prisoners work in prison; most prisoners want to work while in prison. If anything, there is not enough work available for prisoners, particularly work that translates into skills that can be used out in the “real world.” There is a lot of data showing that offenders who are able to get a decent job after prison are far less likely to commit further crimes.
    Most states, other than those in the deep south, abandoned hard labor programs decades ago. Research has consistently shown that hard labor does nothing to reduce the crime rate or reduce individual recidivism. But I think I understand why people are motivated to want to try things like that — it’s because it appears the current approach of locking people up does not deter others from committing crime, nor does it deter the individual from committing new crimes upon release. It turns out though, that making prison more unpleasant has virtually no effect on either of those things. (Nor does the death penalty, for that matter.) What does have an effect are measures that are much harder to implement: early education; reduction and elimination of disparities in educational opportunities, employment opportunities, and income; good nutrition in childhood; and changes in a whole lot of other social and economic factors.
    One other note about prison sentences generally: Although the crime rate overall has been steadily decreasing (nationally and locally), our sentencing trends run largely in the opposite direction. For example, the number of prison sentences in Washington over the last twenty years has increased by 167%, which is four times the rate of growth of the adult population. Most of the increase in prison sentences is for non-violent offenders: twenty years ago, sentences for non-violent crimes made up 63% of the total number of prison sentences imposed; now they make up 83% of the prison sentences imposed. And the sentences for non-violent crimes are longer than they were in the past, as well. In 1999, the average sentence for a property crime was 27.5 months; last year it was 33.4 months, a 21% increase. [Citations if anyone wants them.]
    One last comment, for WSB: in your comment about the block watch presentation, you refer to a document that has guidelines, codes, and explanations. People should be aware that the document is a manual for prosecutors to use to decide what charges to file or not file, what plea agreements to negotiate, and what sentences to ask the court to impose. It’s a set of policies, not a legal reference document. So if you want to know how a prosecutor will decide what charges to file, it’s great. If you want to know how a particular case will be resolved or what the sentence will be, it’s totally inadequate. Personally, I would not want people turning to that as a resource for understanding how the criminal justice system works or should work.

    • WSB September 27, 2014 (4:26 pm)

      Thanks as always, WW. Re: what charge was dropped, it was a criminal-trespass charge, stemming from the alleged “break-in” that followed the hit-and-run crash in the stolen vehicle. (The home into which Broughton “broke into” that night, where he eventually was arrested, is a home in which he was said to have previously lived with members of his family.) Transcribed from the “statement of prosecuting attorney” document where they eventually get to the prosecution’s recommendation for sentencing: “According to court services, the defendant has been booked into the King County Jail 22 times since 2001, consisting of 34 warrants. … The defendant’s criminal history includes adult convictions for forgery (2001), Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer (2000, 2002 x 2), Assault in the Third Degree (2002), Taking Motor Vehicle Without Permission (2003), Theft in the Third Degree (2003), Negligent Driving in the First Degree (2003), Possessing Stolen Property in the First Degree (2004), Identity Theft in the First Degree (2004 x 2), Taking Motor Vehicle Without Permission in the Second Degree (2004), Theft in the Second Degree (2004), Trafficking in Stolen Property in the Second Degree (2005), Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (2005), Operating Vessel Under the Influence of Alcohol (2007), Possession of Stolen Vehicle (2009), Assault in the Second Degree (2009), and juvenile adjudications for Reckless Endangerment and Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree (1997).”
      All that is followed by the date and a deputy prosecutor’s signature (and then other documents with supplementary case info, the police narrative from the 1/31 incident that led to his arrest, a Secret Service document mentioning three forged driver’s licenses and checks associated with one of the victims, plus fraudulent purchases, then the plea agreement doc, which included his offender score, 19, for the purpose of the first count, relating to the stolen vehicle, and his offender score, 13, for purposes of count four and five. (I am sorry not to be well-versed in offender scores and other factors that relate to sentencing … some of that was covered, albeit densely and very quickly, in the prosecutors’ appearances at WSBWCN last Tuesday.) Count 2 was the misdemeanor hit-run. – TR

  • Cat October 2, 2014 (2:38 pm)

    On your original post about the “Labor Day” incident you went into great detail explaining how he ran and the girlfriend remained to be arrested on warrants … Now you’re saying they both ran??? I’m confused. Which one is it?

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