Appeals court says Judge Walker sentenced man too harshly

Steve Korris Oct. 18, 2011, 4:44am

For the second time in three months, Ninth District appellate judges caught Jefferson County District Judge Layne Walker punishing a criminal too harshly.

On Oct. 12, they ruled that Judge Walker committed two errors when he imposed consecutive sentences of 20 years and 10 years on Brian Thomas Welker.

They ruled that Walker lacked authority to impose the longer sentence and that he should have set the shorter sentence to run concurrently instead of consecutively.

"A sentence not authorized by law is illegal," Justice David Gaultney wrote.

Gaultney wrote the same words in July, when the Ninth District reversed Walker's order sentencing John Patrick Rager to 15 years confinement.

Walker sentenced both men after they violated community supervision orders.

Rager had pleaded guilty to felony theft of services.

Welker pleaded guilty to two charges, but Gaultney didn't specify his crimes.

Gaultney wrote that one of the indictments against Welker alleged a third degree felony, which would carry a sentence between two and 10 years.

He wrote that Walker's written judgment indicated it was a second degree felony.

"The State concedes that the offense was a third degree felony, and that the trial court was limited to assessing punishment for the third degree offense for which he was indicted and admonished, and to which he pleaded guilty," Gaultney wrote.

He wrote that on the less serious charge, Walker couldn't order a consecutive sentence unless he found that the offenses were prosecuted separately.

Gaultney wrote that Walker must hold another sentencing hearing.

"This court requested the original plea records and was informed by the court reporter, who has since retired, that the records were destroyed," Gaultney wrote.

"Without a record of the plea proceedings, it cannot be determined in this appeal whether the plea proceedings were consolidated into a single criminal action."

He wrote that the state acknowledged there was sloppy paper work, and that the appropriate remedy was to delete the cumulation order.

Justices Charles Kreger and Hollis Horton concurred.

Beaumont attorney David Barlow represented Welker

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