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Reviews of prison sentence policies begin after mistake highlighted

9:43 PM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
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FREMONT COUNTY - The Court Administrator has ordered a review of how it sentences prisoners and sending that information to the Department of Corrections after the court admitted to 9Wants to Know Monday it made a mistake which allowed murder suspect Evan Ebel to get out of prison as many as four years too early.

Late Monday night, the Department of Corrections said it would review how it processes prisoner's sentences too.

This comes after 9Wants to Know reported Friday night that Ebel was released before he served an additional four year prison sentence for assaulting a corrections officer.

Police believe Ebel was out of prison for less than two months when he killed pizza delivery driver Nate Leon in the Denver area. Days later, investigators say he killed Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements at his home near Monument. Ebel then drove to Texas where he was killed in a shootout with police.

Ebel had been in prison for burglary and car-jacking. While serving time at Colorado State Penitentiary, Ebel slipped out of his handcuffs and punched a corrections officer. Ebel pleaded guilty to that assault in 2008.

Sentencing transcripts reviewed by 9Wants to Know leave no doubt that it was a judge's intention to have him serve an addition four years on top of the eight year sentence he was already serving.

At sentencing, Ebel told the judge he thought an additional four year sentence was too harsh. Ebel said the additional sentence would mean he wouldn't get out until he's 33.

Judge David M. Thorson told Ebel he needed to change his attitude.

"If you hadn't done this, you'd be out when you're 29. And if you do this again, you probably won't get out until your (sic) 40," Judge Thorson said, according to the court sentencing transcript obtained by 9Wants to Know.

Ebel never served the additional time because when the judge signed the sentencing paperwork he did not note that the sentence was supposed to be consecutive, or in addition to Ebel's other sentence.

The Colorado Department of Corrections interpreted the document to say Ebel's four-year sentence could be served concurrently with his other sentence.

"The judge announced a sentence of four years in the Department of Corrections but did not state it was consecutive because it was already required by the terms of the plea agreement," 11th Judicial District Administrator Walter Blair wrote in a statement.

"Because the judge did not expressly state that the sentence was consecutive, the court judicial assistant did not include that term in the mittimus, the sentence order that went to Department of Corrections," the statement said. "The court regrets this oversight and extends condolences to the families of Mr. Nathan Leon and Mr. Tom Clements."

Department of Corrections Spokeswoman Alison Morgan told 9Wants to Know last week, that case law requires the DOC to treat any sentence as concurrent unless it specifically says otherwise.

At Ebel's sentencing the transcript shows Evan Ebel's father, Jack, spoke.

"We have developed a tremendous father/son bond," he said. 

Jack Ebel said he visited his son every two weeks.

"We find every two weeks is a good time frame and we have a lot to talk about, as opposed to sooner," Jack Ebel said.

Jack Ebel said he supports his son financially and talked about the literature his son was reading in prison.

"Evan is extremely well-read. He's read a lot more literature than I will ever read in my lifetime, unfortunately, and so he spends a lot of time telling me about the literature I should have read. We share a lot in common in terms of our music and in terms of, in terms of entertainment, in terms of movies that we've watched," Jack Ebel said.

He said he planned to support his son when he got out of prison.

"I have hope for his future. And I would hope that you'd just take that into consideration in your sentencing, and, hopefully, give us something that we can, that my son can hope for and I can too," Jack Ebel said at his son's sentencing. "He's got six more years in his current sentence and whatever additional time that you give him today. I mean, I'd like something to work with."

Evan Ebel's attorney, Samuel McClure asked the court to go easy on Evan.

"I think that the death of Evan's sister sent him in a spiral downward a number of years ago," McClure said.

Evan's sister, Miranda, died in a traffic accident in 2004, the same year Evan got in trouble with the law as an adult.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or e-mail him
jace.larson@9news.com

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