‘I was drunk’ defense fails in Superior Court
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
April 14, 2009 · Updated 3:26 PM
A 38-year-old Tacoma man who was caught trying to steal electronics from a truck parked inside an Oak Harbor resident’s garage will be spending more than five years in prison.
Following a trial that ended Feb. 11, a jury in Island County Superior Court took only 18 minutes to find Solomon Hilts guilty of residential burglary. Hilts’ defense was that he wasn’t guilty because he was drunk, but the jury didn’t buy it.
During the sentencing hearing April 6, Hilts’ attorney asked the judge to impose a sentence of one year in jail, which was below the standard sentencing range.
Attorney Darrin Hall of Coupeville pointed to the delay in prosecution between the burglary, which occurred nearly three years ago, and the trial. During that time, Hilts was “generally a productive member of society,” Hall argued in court papers.
Also, Hall explained that Hilts has been an alcoholic for about 20 years and he won’t qualify for county treatment services if he’s sent to prison. Hall wrote that the police found Hilts lying in the middle of the road a half an hour before the burglary and they administered a portable breath analyzer, which registered a reading of 0.23.
Hilts was on probation at the time with the Department of Corrections and drinking was a violation, but his probation officer did nothing, Hall maintained.
“The lack of supervision over a maxed-out felony offender shows the failure in the system,” Hall wrote. “Mr. Hilts is literally just another number to the criminal justice system. Mr. Hilts needs alcohol treatment or there is a substantial likelihood the cycle will never end.”
Hilts was facing a sentence of up to seven years in prison under the standard sentencing range. The range is “maxed-out” because of the defendant’s lengthy criminal history. He was arrested 17 times and convicted of seven felonies in Pierce and King counties. The convictions include robbery in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, assault in the second degree, malicious mischief, theft in the first degree and two drug charges.
In the end, Judge Alan Hancock showed some mercy and sentenced Hilts to 64 months in prison, which is nearly the bottom of the standard sentencing range. Hancock also recommended to the Department of Corrections that Hilts receive chemical dependency treatment in prison.
According to the police report, a 25-year-old resident of a Scenic Heights condo caught Hilts rifling through a truck inside the attached garage. Hilts dropped the items he had taken and ran away.
The resident chased Hilts down the road, screaming for him to stop. The police soon caught up with him.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.