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Appellate court upholds 'worst offender' ruling

Posted: November 11, 2011 - 1:06am

The state Court of Appeals this week upheld a sentencing decision for a Juneau resident convicted for threatening another man with knife in 2009.

In its decision Thursday, the court affirmed Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg’s decision to classify Fenton Leon Jacobs Jr., 32, as a “worst offender” for sentencing purposes. Pallenberg had imposed the maximum imprisonment term — five years — for third-degree assault in Jacobs’ case.

The appellate court’s review of the case found Jacobs was a first felony offender, but had 29 prior misdemeanor convictions over a time span of 11 years. There were nine adult convictions for assault and one adjudication as a delinquent minor for assault.

The court pointed out Pallenberg had acknowledged this charge did not qualify among the worst of third-agree assaults, but that Jacobs’ criminal record of assault could not be ignored.

“... The judge concluded that Jacobs showed a ‘complete lack of insight’ into what he had done. The judge also found that the victim had done nothing to provoke the assault, and that Jacobs was ‘out of control,’” Court of Appeals Judge David Mannheimer wrote in his opinion. “... Pointing to Jacobs’ lengthy history of assaultive crimes, Judge Pallenberg declared Jacobs qualified as a worst offender, and that, after so many assaults, Jacobs had ‘used up (his) chances.’”

Jacobs’ appealed the case, arguing Pallenberg did not delve into the facts of his past misdemeanor convictions, but instead simply relied on the number of convictions. Jacobs also argued he did not injure the victim, and cited case law that shows other defendants who committed worse crimes received less severe sentences for third-degree assault.

Mannheimer sided with Pallenberg, saying, “Judge Pallenberg recognized that the facts of Jacobs’s current assault did not qualify as among the worst third-degree assaults. Judge Pallenberg’s sentencing decision was based primarily on Jacobs’s lengthy history of assaultive conduct and recidivism, as well as on the facts that Jacobs’s current assault was completely unprovoked, and that Jacobs showed essentially no insight into his behavior. Given this record, we can not say that Judge Pallenberg was clearly mistaken when he sentenced Jacobs to serve 5 years.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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