Sentencing complicated when judge told defendant is a confidential informant
EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of the defendant and the judge, some dates and geographic references are omitted from this story in an attempt to preserve the confidential identity of a law enforcement informant.
KINGMAN — Revelation that a defendant a local judge was about to send to prison had been working with law enforcement as a confidential informant for five years changed his sentencing determination at recent hearings in Mohave County Superior Court.
“This is probably one of the most unusual sentencing hearings I have ever done,” the judge said. He said he began the proceeding thinking he would impose the maximum prison sentence allowed under the plea agreement resolving the defendant’s mix of fraud- and forgery-related charges.
“I was going to send you to prison for four years,” the judge told the defendant. “You have 14 felony convictions and five misdemeanor convictions.”
But the judge told the defendant that information provided by Deputy Mohave County Attorney Megan McCoy led him to discard his prison inclination.
Because the information had not been provided in documents that are sometimes submitted and sealed in confidential fashion, McCoy was in the awkward position of publicly detailing the defendant’s work for local law enforcement after jail inmates were cleared from the courtroom. McCoy said authorities cannot overlook or excuse the defendant’s criminal conduct but that the defendant and officers associated with the MAGNET drug task force wanted the court to know that the defendant has been very helpful working cases since 2014.
“(The defendant) has been giving us incredible and vital information,” McCoy said. “(The defendant’s) work is important in getting us targets that we could not get before.”
The judge made light of the fact that McCoy, a senior member of the county attorney’s office, had not imparted the confidential informant details with colleagues in her office. He said it was like the CIA withholding information from the Justice Department when the entities are supposed to be on the same page.
The defendant expressed a wish for sentencing leniency.
“I’m deeply sorry for the crime I committed. I was under a lot of duress and going through a difficult time in my life,” the defendant told the judge. “Instead of locking me up, I hope you’ll give me that chance.”
The judge placed the defendant on probation for three years and ordered 300 hours of community work service.