Third resentencing ordered in baby in dryer case
HUTCHINSON (MCT) — An appellate court Friday ordered a third re-sentencing for a Hutchinson man convicted in 2008 of child abuse for putting two children in a hot clothes dryer as punishment.
This time the court spelled out exactly what the maximum sentence for Aaron Pritchard should be and -- based on prior court errors -- it means Pritchard will likely be released.
The case dates back to 2007 when Pritchard was charged with one count of child abuse and one count of aggravated endangering a child for putting his girlfriend's children, ages 2 and 3, into a clothes dryer for the younger child wetting his pants. The boy suffered second-degree burns to his back.
A jury convicted Pritchard on both counts and District Judge Richard Rome sentenced him to 10 years, 4 months in prison.
When sentencing Pritchard, the appeals court noted, Rome gave Pritchard the aggravated sentence on state sentencing guidelines for each charge, then added them together and ordered an upward departure to double the cumulative 62 months.
The appellate court confirmed the conviction, but overturned the original sentence after finding the state improperly presented testimony to the jury about the brutality of the crime without giving the defense prior notice of the testimony.
At his first resentencing in September 2011, District Judge Trish Rose discarded the testimony the court objected to, but found Pritchard should still get the aggravated sentence on the grid because of his fiduciary duty to the children.
She then imposed the aggravated sentences, ran them consecutively and doubled them again, giving him 124 months.
When ordering a second resentencing, the appellate court found the district court made another error by doubling the combined aggravated sentences, rather than imposing two separate departure sentences to run consecutively.
Unless a departure is imposed on an individual sentence, the court stated, the rule allowing the sentence to be doubled can't be used. Since there was no departure, the maximum would be double his base sentence of 55 months, or 110 months.
The court also noted in that opinion, a case called Guder prevents modification of a sentence vacated on appeal without reversal of the underlying conviction.
At his second resentencing hearing, in August 2013, District Judge Trish Rose again sentenced Pritchard to the aggravated sentences and, again finding there was a fiduciary relationship, granted an upward sentence departure and doubled the sentence, to 110 months.
However, the court noted in Friday's ruling, Rose when resentencing Pritchard didn't correct the previous errors.
Rome never properly granted an upward departure, the justices said. And, based on Guder, that precludes Rose from doing so now. That means the maximum sentence Pritchard can receive is 5 years, 2 months -- the aggravated 55 months and a consecutive 7 months for aggravated endangering a child.
Pritchard remains in prison pending a resentencing hearing.
(c)2014 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)