The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Gila County Judge Edd Dawson had no legal basis to overrule a jury decision that would have sent Star Valley businessman Roy Haught to prison.
Haught, who was convicted of negligent homicide and aggravated assault in the death of James Cooper of Strawberry, must now be resentenced in Gila County Superior Court.
In February 1999, a jury determined that the charges against Haught should be classified as dangerous crimes, a provision under Arizona State Statute that requires mandatory prison time.
During sentencing, Dawson disregarded the dangerous crimes provision of the verdict, clearing the way for a lighter sentence. Dawson sentenced Haught, 37, to a six-month jail term, plus five years probation.
Chief Judge Philip Espinosa, Presiding Judge J. William Brammer Jr., and Judge Joseph Howard concluded "that the trial court here abused its discretion when it revisited the factual determination of seriousness.
"... there was ample evidence from which the jury could infer such intent (to inflict serious injury), including the victim's multiple bruises to his head, face and body, four broken ribs, and evidence the majority of those injuries resulted from (Haught) kicking the victim while he was on the ground ... Accordingly, the jury's verdicts must be reinstated."
The court of appeals has remanded the case back to the trial court for resentencing.
"There's been no mandate that's come down yet ...that's why I can't comment on the case," Judge Dawson said Tuesday.
"They've just issued their opinion, which gives people time to comment on that opinion. When I receive the mandate, then it goes back to this court for resentencing."
Dawson said he expects to receive that mandate within 30 days.
"I don't expect any changes in their opinion," he said.