Third strike counts for TH woman

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Based on California's three-strikes law, a Twain Harte woman yesterday was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for possessing a gun while committing a crime.

This means Kelly Kessler, 38, may be a senior citizen when she's released from prison if she ever gets out.

The sentence also makes Kessler the first woman in Tuolumne County to be a three-strike felon.

Visiting Judge Charles Stone of Stanislaus County, who ordered the sentenced, also presided at Kessler's March trial in which she was convicted on the gun possession charge and misdemeanor charges of trespassing, petty theft and exhibiting a firearm.

Because of the misdemeanor convictions, Kessler will serve an extra year in prison, and not be eligible for parole until 2029.

For the entire half-hour hearing in Tuolumne County Superior Court, Kessler sat crying and shaking next to her defense attorney, Richard Hove of Hayward. At times, Hove patted his client's shoulder.

After Stone read his sentence, Kessler did not immediately understand what happened. After Stone left the courtroom, she asked "What did he just say?"

Hove spoke quietly to Kessler, who sobbed and looked around the courtroom for her husband, Donald, and family. Within minutes, she was led out by three armed sheriff's deputies and taken back to the Tuolumne County Jail, where she has been since her conviction.

As soon as the court prepares state Department of Corrections documents, Kessler will go to a women's prison, probably this week, a jail official said.

The judge's order means the longest term she'll serve, but it's not her first time behind bars.

Kessler's first strike was for a first-degree robbery conviction in December 1994 in San Francisco. The second came when she was convicted in August 1995 of residential burglary in Carson City, Nev.

Each of Kessler's crimes were committed using a firearm, said Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney Michael Knowles, who prosecuted Kessler.

Hove pleaded for Stone's leniency, as did Kessler's victim, Dorrey Hite.

The Union Democrat
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