'Three-strikes' prisoner wins release in wake of California's Proposition 36

04/23/2013 12:00 AM

04/23/2013 8:58 AM

In one of Sacramento's stickier "three-strikes" release cases, a judge resentenced a man with a homicide in his past to a new term Monday that should get him out of prison in the next two weeks.

Prosecutors had asked Superior Court Judge Alan G. Perkins to impose a new term on Kevin Lewis Holloway that would have kept him behind bars nearly another five years, even with the passage of last year's Proposition 36 initiative that softened California's career criminal statute.

But Perkins went along with the defense in saying that he was impressed by Holloway's recent accomplishments while locked up, including an episode cited in an associate warden's commendation that the defendant risked his own safety to quell a race riot in one of the prisons. The judge also noted the unusual level of support enjoyed by Holloway from his mother, father, sister, wife, sons and other family members who filled nearly half the courtroom Monday.

"So I place my faith in you," the judge said, telling Holloway to "go forward" and "I wish you well."

Holloway, 49, is the 37th state prisoner sentenced to a 25-to-life term out of Sacramento County who has gained a prison release this year since passage of Proposition 36, according to Assistant Public Defender Amanda Benson.

His case was more problematic than most because of his 1998 prior conviction in Alameda County for voluntary manslaughter. Last year's ballot measure, however, allows for the resentencing of three-strike prisoners even if they have homicide in their backgrounds, as long as the convictions that triggered their life terms fell into a nonserious or nonviolent category and a resentencing judge determines they no longer present a danger to society. Holloway picked up his 25-to-life term for a 2003 conspiracy to smuggle drugs into Folsom State Prison.

Benson said in an interview there have been other offenders with past manslaughter convictions among the 37 released so far out of Sacramento County.

She told the judge that in prison, Holloway has "gone above and beyond. He's worked so hard to make himself a better person."

She asked Perkins to resentence Holloway to what amounted to a 10-year term, or time he has already served.

"We just feel very strongly he is just not a danger to society and he will be a productive member to society," Benson said in court.

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Lori Greene said, "I would be hard-pressed to ask the court to find him a current danger in 2013 for crimes he committed in 1998." Greene also agreed with Benson that Holloway has compiled a "quite impressive" record of completing educational and rehabilitation programs in prison.

Neither Greene nor Benson provided the court with any details on the Alameda County killing, although information on the homicide was available to the court in a probation report on Holloway's 2006 sentencing, which Perkins said he reviewed. The report is no longer a public record.

Although she agreed Holloway is no longer a danger, Greene still cited Holloway's manslaughter conviction in Alameda County to say that he "does have some violence, some extreme violence" in his background.

Greene also told the court Holloway has a 1988 conviction for burglary with a knife and for robbery in 1987 in what the prosecutor called "a forced money grab."

She asked Perkins to resentence Holloway to 14 years and eight months, which would have kept him in prison for as many as another four years and eight months, based on his 2003 prison drug smuggling conspiracy.

Greene said Holloway sought to smuggle 37.4 grams of marijuana, 6.7 grams of heroin and 1.3 grams of cocaine into the prison.

Before Holloway's 2006 court case, Greene said he wrote a letter to his co-conspirator – his ex-wife, who eventually pleaded no contest – telling her "these people are trying to get you to lie on me" and suggesting that she fire her lawyer.

"She was trying to get a deal and he wanted to make sure it didn't happen," Greene told Perkins.

Holloway said, "What I've done before in the past, I can't take away. I made a lot of mistakes, I hurt a lot of people But I've worked hard since then" and "I don't see the benefit to keep me in prison any longer."

Dressed in jailhouse orange and seated at the defense table, Holloway wept when he mentioned his parents.

"I want to make them proud of me again," he said.

With his sons also seated behind him in the courtroom, Holloway said, "I failed them, but it's not too late. I want to get out and show them some good examples."

His new wife, Nancy Holloway, who identified herself as an employee of the Natomas Unified School District, said, "He does have a home waiting for him here in Sacramento." His father, Morton Holloway, said, "He has all my support," and "we need him home."

Benson said it should take two weeks to process Holloway out of the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad where he is now housed.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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