Habitual offender out ‘wreaking havoc’ after serving one-quarter of sentence
A convicted felon who was supposed to serve every day of a two-year sentence was released after serving only a fraction of his sentence, and now he’s back out on the streets “wreaking havoc,” Judge Dal Williamson said last week.
“It’s broken,” Williamson said from the bench Tuesday, blasting the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Parole Board and House Bill 585. “It strips from the law the court’s authority to impose serious consequences.”
The judge, who has long been a critic of the Parole Board’s early release system, was referring to the case of 44-year-old Bobby Deloach. He was arrested in Ellisville this month for possession of marijuana, disturbing a business and disobeying a police officer, according to jail records.
Less than a year ago, Deloach pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was sentenced as a habitual offender to two years in the full-time custody of the MDOC. An indictment for possession of methamphetamine and marijuana were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea to the firearms charge, Williamson said.
“The court reluctantly approved,” he said of the plea deal between Deloach’s attorney and the District Attorney’s Office.
Because Deloach was sentenced as a habitual offender — meaning it was his third felony conviction, at least — he was supposed to serve all of his time, with no chance for early release.
“In five months, he was out,” Williamson said. “I don’t know how he ended up back on the streets of Ellisville wreaking havoc.”
Judges and prosecutors have long argued that their hands are tied until perpetrators are convicted of their third felony, which is when they have to serve all of their time behind bars. But now MDOC is breaking its own rules, Williamson said, referring to Deloach, whose rap sheet includes a conviction of sale of cocaine and two-year sentence in September 2009 and another conviction for possession of a weapon.
Jail records show that Deloach was also arrested by EPD in July for simple assault by threat, in addition to the three other misdemeanor charges in September.
“It’s disgusting,” William- son said. “He should have served his sentence day for day. But instead, he‘s out harassing people, resisting arrest ... Somebody needs to take a look at this. It’s broken.”
HB 585, which has sentencing guidelines that were passed by the Legislature in 2014 and have continued to be tweaked, doesn’t give the courts the tools it needs to stop the revolving door in correctional institutions, Williamson said.
“The most recent laws make it harder to enforce the laws,” he said.
The judge offered an example. If an individual is released from prison and put on post-release supervision under the MDOC, he has to commit three or more “technical violations” before he can be sent back to serve the remainder of his time in custody. Refusing to pay fines or restitution or to report to community service or to his probation officer are all technical violations.
The only thing the court can do in those cases, Williamson said, is send the offender to an MDOC Technical Violation Center or Restitution Center for 90 days, unless they commit another felony.
The court needs the authority to send offenders back to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences for non-compliance, Williamson said.
The way the laws are now “is not in the best interests of the county and law-abiding citizens,” he said.
The repeat offenders also take up the resources of law enforcement personnel, the judge said.
“I hope the Legislature takes another look at this,” Williamson said. “MDOC and the Parole Board need to fol- low their own statutes. Rather than being quiet, I decided to speak out about it.”
After speaking out about the laws governing repeat offenders, Williamson sen- tenced four repeat offenders who were before him on post-release revocation hearings for breaking the terms of their release:
• Brandon Hailes, 29, felony domestic violence, and Joppa Huggins, 31, possession of cocaine were both ordered to serve the remaining three years of their sentences;
• Michaela McGraw, 24, possession of stolen property, and Malcolm D. Williams, 25, receiving stolen property, were sent to the restitution center until the amount they owe the court and their victims is paid off.