By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — A sex offender’s sentence was lowered after the Appeals Court reopened the case. Judge Jonathan P. Hein presided.
Jeffrey “Scott” S. Sutherland, 34, of Greenville is currently serving time in the Noble Correctional Institute after being found guilty on two counts of rape by a jury after a three-day trial in Decemer of last year. Sutherland’s trial was based off allegations he inappropriately touched and raped a female family member under the age of 10 in April 2020.
However, as of 10:30 a.m. Monday , Sutherland’s case was reopened for re-sentencing because the Appeals Court made the decision, as a matter of law, the evidence did not support conviction on count two, so the case was remanded for sentencing.
State Prosecutor Deborah Quigley advised count two, rape, a felony of the first degree, was an issue; however, conviction on count one of rape, also a felony of the first degree was not supported by sufficient evidence.
She said the trial court’s judgment conviction was to vacate count one only, and count one needed to be modified to indicate Sutherland was convicted of Gross Sexual Imposition and re-sentenced on that issue instead of rape.
Defense Attorney Alex Pendle, who was not the attorney on the original case, advised the court the sentence his client was given on count two, a sentence of 25-years to life, was not within the possible sentences, and the sentence should have been 15-years to life instead.
Judge Hein addressed Sutherland and advised him of why the 25 to life sentence was unlawful stating for a 25 to life sentence, there has to be serious physical harm to a person.
“If there is serious physical harm, it raises the penalty. The jury should have issued a separate verdict, and in this case there was none. The state did not file a specification of serious physical harm,” Judge Hein said.
Judge Hein took accountability for the sentencing of this case as well, stating he did not do enough of his own research.
“I thought I independently researched it, and I don’t see any references that I did that, so it appears to me that I relied on the lawyers’ recommendation for 25 to life because that is a permitted penalty of the trial verdict supporting that sentence,” Judge Hein said.
He said he reviewed all of his notes from Sutherland’s trial and “the magistrate conducted the arraignment and gave a sum total of years that could be opposed as a penalty, and at sentencing the lawyers recommended the sentence had to be a 25 to life.” Due to all the facts, Judge Hein originally deemed the mandatory 25 years to life as a reasonable penalty for Sutherland’s original verdict.
Due to the Appeals Court reopening the case and the reasoning’s behind why, Judge Hein stated in regards to the newly imposed Gross Sexual Imposition charge in count one, Sutherland was sentenced to four years incarceration to be served concurrently with the sentence on count two.
Judge Hein found count two to be a manifest of injustice to Sutherland “by imposing a sentence that was unlawful, as there was no specification filed saying there was serious physical harm to the juvenile involved.”
Sutherland was re-sentenced on count two, rape, a felony of the first degree from 25-years to life to 15-years to life. He will receive jail time credit from the prior sentencing date, and if he is ever released from prison, he will have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
Judge Hein advised Sutherland he expects and encourages Quigley to view the record and decide if his re-sentencing was contrary to the law. If it was, the next judge will be able to reimpose the original 25-years to life sentence.
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].