Man asks judge for lighter sentence

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A man who has spent five months of his 18-year sentence for killing his family while drinking and driving asked a judge for a reduced sentence so he can participate in a prison treatment program.

James Woolbert pleaded no contest in July to two counts of child abuse resulting in death and one count of vehicular homicide. On Nov. 9, 2011, Woolbert, who had just been released from jail hours prior, crashed his car on Fence Line Road in Meadow Lake, killing his girlfriend, 21-year-old Dawn Jaramillo, and their two young children, Michael, 2, and Marissa, 4.

After entering his no-contest plea, District Judge Violet Otero sentenced Woolbert to 18-years in prison, followed by five years supervised probation.

But last week, Woolbert and his defense attorney, Jeff Rein, asked Otero to lower his sentence so he could participate in the therapeutic community program offered to prisoners. The intensive counseling program, according to Rein, is only offered to inmates with a certain amount of time left on their sentences, which Woolbert is not yet eligible for.

"These are people who need to be surrounded by other inmates who are doing the same thing," Rein said of the therapeutic community. "Mr. Woolbert has made the request, but can't participate until he has nine years or less on his sentence."

Rein said his client has been able to set up individual counseling sessions on a weekly basis while in prison for his significant grief and depression issues. The attorney said while the educational opportunities behind bars are limited, his client is enrolled in the GED program.

"If there's a way to decrease his sentence by four years, he might be eligible for this therapy," Rein said. "He's made some pretty herculean efforts while he's been incarcerated."

Woolbert, in his orange-colored prison jumpsuit, told Otero that one of his most important goals is not to become a career criminal while behind bars.

"When I get out, I want to be involved in counseling and inspire kids not to go down the road that I did," Woolbert said. "I want the court to know that I can change my ways and my thoughts. I've lost everything and I have to live with this for the rest of my life."

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Jimenez opposed the defense motion, saying if the court agrees to reducing the sentence, Woolbert would, in essence, be withdrawing his no-contest plea. Jimenez told Otero that the victim's family, who were present at the hearing last week, oppose any change to the sentence.

In the end, Otero denied Woolbert's request for a reconsideration of this sentence, saying that while the arguments were well thought out and had reasoning, she couldn't agree to reconsider the sentence.

"There were two deaths of very young children," Otero said. "It's a mistake you made in your life, but the consequences to the family is eternal. I believe you that you don't want to be a career criminal, but the court is going to deny your request."


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.