Woman chalks up third strike

March 07, 2003 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

A Twain Harte woman just racked up her third strike.

Kelly Kessler, 38, had two strikes against her under California's three-strikes law. Her recent conviction for gun possession means she could face 26 years to life in prison.

Visiting Judge Charles Stone of Stanislaus County Superior Court must make the decision on the sentence, allowed under the three-strikes law and upheld this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kessler, also known by her Cree Indian name of River, was found guilty last Friday by a Tuolumne County jury in Stone's courtroom of the felony gun charge, plus three misdemeanors — trespassing, petty theft and exhibiting a firearm — committed on Nov. 18, 2001.

Kessler was convicted Dec. 1, 1994, of first-degree robbery in San Francisco Superior Court and on Aug. 1, 1995, of residential burglary in Carson City, Nev.

She served about four years in prison for both crimes and was paroled.

Both are considered strikes even though one was committed in another state, said Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney Mike Knowles, who prosecuted Kessler in the latest case.

Throughout the recent three-day trial, Donald Kessler, a retired Bay Area chiropractor, sat behind his wife, Kelly. He said yesterday he could not understand how the jury could convict his wife based largely on testimony from the prosecution's main witness, victim Dorrey Hite.

Donald Kessler said he believed Hite's answers raised many doubts.

"I don't know how she was convicted," Donald Kessler said. "She is the type of person who will help anyone who is down and out. And she was trying to help Dorrey, who at the time was living in unsanitary conditions."

Donald Kessler said his wife is a recovering drug user, clean for 14 years. He said his wife's legal troubles back in 1994 and 1995 were committed during a tumultuous time in her life before they were married.