elderly, unhealthy defendant faced 7 year sentence due to sobriety failures
Public Defender suggested unique probation conditions
BISBEE – For the second time in 15 years, Stewart Hanson has been given a chance to stay out of prison after being convicted of a January 2002 attempted sexual assault.
Hanson, now age 75, was originally sentenced in July 2002 to lifetime probation in lieu of a possible seven year prison sentence. As part of his probation the Sierra Vista man was ordered to abstain from alcohol and not have alcohol in his residence.
However, Hanson was arrested last month for violating his probation by consuming alcohol and failing to report to his probation officer. On January 4, Cochise County probation officer David Wheeler fileda petition asking judge Wallace Hoggatt to revoke Hanson’s probation. A memorandum filed by the probation office outlines several instances of Hanson using alcohol the last two years, including hospitalizations, falls, and detox stays.
The memo also recommended Hanson be sent to prison for seven years as called for in 2002. But a decision by the judge on February 17 reinstated Hanson to lifetime probation – albeit with a few unique conditions proposed by Hanson’s court-appointed attorney.
Hanson, who has two DUI convictions from 2001 and 2002, admitted having “a problem with alcohol.” Ina letter to the judgehe also acknowledged that “probation is concerned that I will continue drinking, which may lead to me driving under the influence and that this would put the public at risk.”
Deputy public defender Mathew Cannon conceded that Hanson used his vehicles to obtain alcohol and kept alcohol in his home. However, Cannon argued against sending the elderly, frail Hanson to prison. Cannon instead asked that Hanson be reinstated to probation with several new conditions, including surrender of his driver’s license and getting rid of his vehicles.
Judge Hoggatt noted at a February 3 hearing he had “absolutely no wish to send a 75 year old man to prison,” but it might be necessary “unless we can really prevent this gentleman from getting behind the wheel.” Because the new conditions were unrelated to the underlying crime of sexual assault, Hoggatt first wanted to ensure he had the authority to impose the conditions Cannon was suggesting.
On February 9, Cannon fileda brief outlining statutes and case lawhe believed authorized Hoggatt to impose special probation conditions. The brief noted the Arizona Supreme Court has held that “a court may require that a defendant comply with numerous conditions of probation when…such conditions aid in the rehabilitation process or prove a reasonable alternative to incarceration.” Cannon also pointed out the defendant was asking for such conditions to be imposed.
When the parties returned to court February 17 Hoggatt noted that the filing was “exactly what I was asking for.” Daniel Akers, appearing on behalf of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, had no objections to the defense motion and left the disposition to the judge’s discretion.
In the end, Hoggatt told Hanson “I am persuaded that I should give you another opportunity” with intensive probation. However, Hoggatt sternly asserted he would not hesitate to incarcerate Hanson in the future “if your own conduct makes it necessary.” Hoggatt then imposed several new probation conditions including that Hanson “shall not drive or be in physical control of a vehicle.” He must obtain permission from the probation office to obtain a new license or purchase a vehicle in the future.
Hanson is now also subject to a deferred incarceration provision which was not imposed in 2002. The provision allows the probation office to request Hanson be placed in the county jail (up to 14 days at a time for no more than 30 days total) in the event of future issues. The provision does not negate the option of revoking Hanson’s probation and sending him to prison.
probation memo notes multiple violations, changes in supervision levels over 15 years
In 2002, Hanson was convicted of aggravated DUI and attempt to commit sexual assault. He was also convicted of a second aggravated DUI for a 2001 offense. The then-60 year old was sentenced to prison on the DUI charges and to lifetime probation on the sexual assault charge. He was released from prison in July 2004 after which he completed five years of probation for one of the DUI charges and then started his term of lifetime probation in July 2009.
According to the February 1 probation memo it “seemed to have gone without incident” for several years. This resulted in Hanson being removed from a high level of intensive supervision to a standard level of supervision in early 2015.
By spring 2015, however, the probation office was aware Hanson was consuming alcohol. Over the next few months Hanson continued to attend AA meetings as well as outpatient counseling through the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs but his drinking issues continued. He was also getting poor reports from the agency overseeing Hanson’s mandatory sex offender treatment. As a result, Hanson was placed back on intensive supervision in November 2015 after reporting to the probation office intoxicated.
Court records show he was hospitalized a few more times for his drinking, and in June 2016 he was admitted to a 90 day substance abuse residential program through the VA. According to the memo, Hanson began drinking again soon after his September release from treatment. Then on October 27 a probation surveillance officer discovered Hanson drinking the same day he was released from a weeklong hospital stay for chest pains.
Hanson was readmitted to a VA substance abuse program in early November 2016 and released around Christmas. On December 29, a surveillance officer “found the defendant drunk” and when other probation officers arrived later that day they found Hanson “in an even deeper state of inebriation,” according to the document.
The decision was made to not arrest Hanson that day in order for his daughter to arrange medical care “due to the extent of the defendant’s state of intoxication.” Hanson was arrested the next week when he reported to the probation office in Sierra Vista on January 4 for a weekly appointment. He was booked into the Cochise County jail where he was held without bail until his probation was reinstated February 17.
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 or email@example.com