Haught Appeals Sentencing Case To Supreme Court

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An attorney for Star Valley businessman Roy George Haught has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to review a decision by the state appellate court that ruled Haught received too lenient a sentence for his role in the 1997 death of Strawberry mechanic James Cooper.

According to court records, the appellate court forwarded a petition for review to the Supreme Court in May. The petition was filed by Haught's attorney Neal Bassett.

Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose, who prosecuted the case, said if the Supreme Court decides to review the case, "they'll look over the court of appeal's opinion and see if any mistakes were made."

A Supreme Court decision isn't expected until later this summer.

While DeRose awaits the high court's ruling, he said some people close to the case have tried to influence the recommendation he'll offer the court if Haught is resentenced.

"I've been approached by others on (Haught's) behalf," DeRose said.

One of those people is Gil Shaw, the lawyer for Esther Cooper, the victim's widow. On behalf of Mrs. Cooper, Shaw filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Haught.

In a letter to DeRose dated April 12, Shaw wrote that "extended jail time may impede Haught's ability to satisfy any economic settlement we are able to achieve."

Contrary to her lawyer's plea to DeRose, Mrs. Cooper has said Haught's current sentence six months in jail and five years probation is insulting in light of the crime.

Haught was convicted of following Jim Cooper to his house, punching him in the head, knocking him to the ground and allegedly kicked him repeatedly while he was down. Cooper died six days later in a Valley hospital from injuries sustained during the fight.

Shaw said the letter is simply part of the legal maneuvering that occurs during civil cases and that he and his client still contend that Haught "has not yet stepped up to the plate and taken responsibility for (Jim Cooper's death)."

When a Gila County jury found Haught guilty of negligent homicide and aggravated assault in February 1999, it stipulated the crimes were dangerous a legal provision that requires mandatory prison time.

During sentencing, however, Superior Court Judge Edd Dawson disregarded the dangerous crimes element of the verdict, clearing the way for a lighter sentence.

DeRose immediately filed an appeal to the appellate court.

After reviewing the case, Chief Judge Philip Espinosa, Presiding Judge J. William Brammer Jr. and Judge Joseph Howard concluded "that the trial court here abused it's discretion" when it opted for the lighter sentence.

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