At the age of 16, Orange County's Robert John Goliath experienced the glorious benefits of methamphetamine: For the rest of his life, he may received free housing, free food, free medical care, free--albeit less than fashionable, state-issued--clothing, and an entertaining bunch of neighbors.
In the middle of a night in October 2003, a high Goliath committed a crime spree that included robbery, carjacking and kidnapping of a man he stripped, bound, threatened and threw into the trunk of a vehicle for eight hours.
In hopes of receiving leniency because of his youth and drug problems, he pleaded guilty to all counts, but instead found himself punished with two consecutive, seven years to life prison sentences.
Appeals to a state judge and later to a state appellate court failed, but this month a federal judge in Los Angeles determined that Goliath has a legitimate claim that his criminal defense lawyer failed to provide effective legal assistance.
According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich, the lawyer "failed to follow the proper procedure to enable the state appellate court" to even consider Goliath's non-frivolous appellate arguments, a failure that "prejudiced" the defendant.
Goliath believes he was wrongly punished twice for essentially the same act: the kidnapping and carjacking and wants one of his seven years to life sentences dismissed.
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On June 11, U.S. District Court Judge Christine A. Snyder accepted Wistrich's recommendations.
Upshot: Inside California's Kern Valley State Prison, the 26-year-old Goliath--who already has been in custody for about a decade and has four more years to go before he can first request parole--will now get a chance to reduce his sentence.