One time Campbell County attorney Wes Hatmaker has had his bid for sentencing leniency denied.
On Friday, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) rejected Hatmaker’s request to have his sentence reversed and probation be applied to his case.
Hatmaker’s attorney, Stephen Johnson, argued his client had been improperly sentenced when Senior Judge Paul Summers imposed consecutive sentences, inappropriately applied sentencing factors to the 14-year sentence, didn’t consider the mitigating factors and denied probation.
Last June, Hatmaker was sentenced in the case where he pleaded guilty to stealing $500,000 from a number of clients over a six-year period.
Within the 20-page opinion, TCCA Judge Robert Holloway dismantled each of these points presented by Johnson on Hatmaker’s behalf.
Summers found Hatmaker to be a “professional criminal” at the time of sentencing, which made him subject to consecutive sentencing, the TCCA opinion said. Summers based this finding on the large amount of evidence of Hatmaker’s crimes submitted to him. Specifically, Summers said Hatmaker used the $500,000 stolen from his clients as a “major source of livelihood” for six years. At his sentencing, Hatmaker admitted he took the funds when his family began to have financial hardships. The TCCA said that statement supported Summers finding that Hatmaker was a “professional criminal.”
Johnson also attempted to argue that prosecutors were allowed to present sentencing factors without providing notice they would do so.
Holloway shot this point down as well.
He noted the state wasn’t required to give notice since they weren’t seeking sentencing beyond the standard range. However, Hatmaker “had eight days of actual notice between the state’s filing” of the sentencing memorandum and when the sentencing took place. Also, the defense filed a response to the state’s memorandum so they knew the state’s intentions. Again, Summers was backed by the higher court in how he handled this point of Hatmaker’s case.
As Holloway turned his attention to the mitigating factors presented in the appeal, Hatmaker gained no footing.
Hatmaker had attempted to argue that he repaid $163,000 he had taken from a client and should be given credit for that action. The court said that was “an act to prevent detection of a criminal activity” not one of contrition. At his sentencing, Hatmaker also said he made the needed admission to his colleagues so his victims could recoup funds from the Tennessee Lawyer’s Fund for Client Assistance. This act carried no weight either, because Hatmaker’s confession there would simply spread the costs of his crimes to “innocent bystanders such as every lawyer in the state of Tennessee.” Allowing someone else to pay the tab for criminal activity “is not redemptive behavior,” the TCCA opinion said.
Regarding probation for his crimes as opposed to prison, the TCCA said that was simply a matter of law. Hatmaker pleaded guilty to four Class B Felonies and thus wasn’t a “favorable candidate” for probation under state law.
Hatmaker is currently being housed at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex at Pikeville. He is eligible for parole in October of 2019. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/11/2018-6AM)