Judge is asked to rethink sentence



Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Eric DuTemple on Monday may reconsider the prison sentence he ordered this week for a 21-year-old pregnant woman who pleaded guilty to one count of elder abuse.

DuTemple sentenced Amanda Valencia on Monday to two years in state prison. She was accused of stealing money, guitars and credit cards from an 82-year-old Sonora man suffering from dementia.

Her attorney, Tuolumne County Public Defender Jerry Osmer, told the judge in a written motion that "I cannot say that my handling of the matter, specifically the sentencing phase, provided adequate assistance of counsel to Ms. Valencia."

In that motion, Osmer said he advised her to plead guilty to the elder abuse charge. Osmer said he was under the impression the judge would sentence Valencia to Tuolumne County Jail for a year, but not to prison.

Valencia was originally charged with first degree burglary, grand theft, forgery and elder abuse when arrested on April 23. If convicted of all charges, she faced a maximum of six years in state prison and a "strike" on her record. But in exchange for pleading guilty to the elder abuse charge, Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Eric Hovatter agreed to drop the other charges.

At Monday's sentencing hearing, DuTemple called Valencia's crime "particularly egregious," and said she should be severely punished.

But Osmer said the two-year prison sentence was too strong, and was worried about Valencia's child, due in November, being born in prison.

"It's a terrible injustice," Osmer told The Union Democrat after the sentencing. "That's the problem with our criminal justice system today. It destroys the lives of young people for their first mistake."

The next day, Osmer filed the motion for reconsideration of the sentence.

The Union Democrat
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