Jurors may have gotten hung up on the arson charge against former Northpoint Training Center inmate Newell Stacy on Tuesday, but they had no hesitation Wednesday in recommending Stacy serve the maximum 20 years for his role in the 2009 riot at the prison.
The Boyle Circuit Court panel was armed with information for Wednesday’s penalty phase it didn’t have during the two-day trial — Stacy’s criminal record. There seemed to be a collective wince in the jury box as Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms detailed Stacy’s past crimes.
“Murder and child molestation are two of the worst crimes we could ever have, and he’s got convictions on both,” Bottoms reiterated to jurors in arguing for Stacy being designated a persistent felony offender and given the maximum prison term. “If ever there was a case that there’s not a doubt a person is a persistent felony offender, I think this is it.”
The jury quickly complied, taking only 17 minutes to fulfill both of the prosecutor’s requests. Judge Darren Peckler will formally sentence Stacy on Jan. 3.
Stacy, 40, was found guilty Tuesday of rioting, but a mistrial was declared on the arson charge after jurors couldn’t reach a verdict after six hours of deliberation. Northpoint Sgt. Tim Peaveyhouse testified he saw Stacy used a concrete slab to beat on the prison’s multi-purpose building and then try to set it ablaze, while four inmates said Stacy was with them during the entire six-hour riot and did not participate in any of the destruction.
Defense attorney Susanne McCollough said Stacy wanted to testify on his own behalf during the trial but was persuaded not to for fear that his presence on the witness stand would open the door for Bottoms to bring out his criminal record to jurors before they decided the case.
Bottoms was allowed to discuss Stacy’s history during the penalty phase to make the case the inmate should be labeled a persistent felony offender. The label would enhance the rioting conviction from a Class D felony to Class B and increase the maximum sentence from five years to 20 years.
The jury’s recommended 20-year sentence will be served consecutively with Stacy’s remaining two years of his original sentence for murder and robbery, meaning he now has 22 years in prison left to serve. He will be eligible for a parole hearing in seven years.
Stacy did take the stand Wednesday hoping to elicit some sympathy from the jury before it recommended his sentence. He said he was nearing the end of his sentence at Northpoint when the riot broke out on Aug. 21, 2009.
“I thought I was going to go home, and this happened,” he said.
Stacy said the child molesting charge in Indiana stemmed from a sexual relationship he had with a 13-year-old girl — he was 19 at the time — that produced a daughter.
Concerning the murder in Trimble County, Stacy said he was hanging out with a friend whose father had just died. The two were cleaning up the father’s farm, drinking and partying, when they got into a fight. Stacy said he knocked his friend unconscious and the friend lay outside overnight as an ice storm hit. Stacy contends the man died from exposure, but “the autopsy man said it was from trauma to the head,” he told jurors.
“Things happen. I’m guilty but not in the way a normal person would be. It’s not like I took a gun and shot him,” Stacy said.
While he was incarcerated, both of his parents, a sister and two grandmothers passed away.
“It’s been a rough time, man,” he said, wiping tears away.
Stacy was the first inmate charged in the riot to stand trial; nine others have been indicted so far, and more are expected.
Bottoms expressed some concern after the jury failed to convict Stacy on the arson charge. The other cases coming up are similar in that they depend on the eyewitness testimony of corrections officers and do not have any videotape evidence of suspects participating in the riot.
The prosecutor’s outlook brightened, however, after Stacy’s jury gave him a PFO label and gave him the maximum sentence. It will give upcoming defendants in the prison cases something to think about, he said.
“Will some of them look at this sentence and decide to take a plea?” Bottoms said. “I can’t answer that, but I would have to think it would be a consideration.”