Judge throws the book at defendant in hitchhike case | SierraSun.com
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Judge throws the book at defendant in hitchhike case

NEVADA CITY ” A Nevada County judge sentenced Charles Sullivan ” convicted of tying up an Interstate 80 hitchhiker and threatening her life ” to three years and eight months in state prison Monday, the maximum sentence possible.

“The jury didn’t buy your story and I didn’t buy it,” Judge Robert Tamietti told Sullivan. “The suggestion that (the victim) wanted to be zip-tied … defies credulity. I’m not surprised the jury didn’t buy it.”

The 25-year-old victim testified Sullivan drove her to a remote area off of Bowman Lake Road on Sept. 15, 2007, after picking her up near the I-80, Highway 20 interchange. He bound her with zip-ties and handcuffs, pointed a gun at her and threatened to hurt her if she looked at him or talked to him. She escaped by cutting the ties on her ankles with her pocketknife and running for help while Sullivan was away at his van.



Sullivan testified the woman brought the handcuffs, asked him to put them on her, and wanted to have sex with him.

Sullivan, who made bail after his conviction, appeared in court Friday with his common-law wife. None of his four children, stepchild or three grandchildren were there.



The victim, who lives out of state, was not able to attend the sentencing, but submitted a written statement. The young woman wrote that her relationship with her boyfriend did not survive the “enormous strain” of the crime and ensuing trial.

The crime has greatly compromised her relationships, self esteem, sense of safety and security, confidence, moods, rest and sleep cycles and sexuality, she added.

“Often I am unable to close my eyes and rest without my mind spinning into reliving the trauma of this experience and that of the trial,” she writes. “I also fear that this was not his first time committing this kind of crime, the only difference being I got away and he was caught.”

The original charges against Sullivan were kidnapping with a firearm, kidnapping with the intent to commit rape with a firearm and criminal threats with a firearm. He could have received a life sentence for those crimes.

A jury convicted Sullivan Jan. 11 on lesser charges of false imprisonment and making criminal threats.

The jury didn’t see enough proof of kidnapping or the use of a gun, Tamietti said, so they couldn’t convict on those charges.

“Though the jury found the defendant not guilty of the more serious charges, there is a big difference between not guilty and innocent,” Tamietti said. “It was so malignant to make a U-turn, pick her up, then transport her to a remote location…That you lured a naive young woman with the intent to rape her is despicable.”

Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson asked Tamietti to sentence Sullivan to the mid-term sentence instead of the maximum, based on Tamietti’s assertion in other cases that he was opposed to sentencing to the upper term. Tamietti’s claims his assertion was based on the Supreme Court ruling on the 2004 case Blakely v. Washington.

Blakely v. Washington held that, in the context of mandatory state sentencing guidelines, the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prohibited judges from enhancing criminal sentences based on facts other than those decided by the jury or admitted by the defendant.

Prosecutors and investigators appeared surprised Monday when Tamietti handed down the maximum sentence, which he said was based on sentencing objectives.

“You don’t second-guess a judge,” Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said after the sentencing. “You can’t compare cases, because each case is a whole entity to itself.”

As part of his sentence, Sullivan will also have to register as a sex offender when he is paroled, Tamietti ruled.


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