Last chance for addict

Tyler James Staas, 30, came to the 11th Judicial Court from jail. He faced sentencing for possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property and failure to stop for a police officer.

At his arraignment on Apr. 15, Staas admitted that on Jan. 29, 2019, he led law enforcement on a high- speed chase down dirt roads in Grass Valley at speeds of up to 80 mph. Ultimately, he crashed a stolen Dodge Ram 1500 into a fence. A search of the vehicle revealed an oxygen tank, copper wire, a miter saw and other items valued at $3500.

Steve Cochran represented the defendant. He noted that his client had a severe drug addiction, but had honorably completed probation in the past.

“We know that specialty court programs work better than incarceration. I’ve always found it strange that in an evidence-based system, we’ll often choose to go with what the evidence shows has the least likelihood of success — incarceration. Mr. Staas has shown that he can honorably complete probation and hold down a job,” he said.

Cochran acknowledged the need for a punishment component to the sentence, but argued for jail time as a condition of probation.

DDA Todd Banks disagreed. He noted that after graduating from the Humboldt County drug court program, Staas reverted to methamphetamine use.

“In fact, during these proceedings, he tested dirty at a hearing,” he said.  The court rescheduled the hearing and had Staas return so he could participate in a state of sobriety as evidenced by a drug test. According to court documents, he tried to cheat that test with a bottle of synthetic urine.

“Backtrack to 2015,” Banks continued. Humboldt County reduced Staas’s felony grand larceny charge to a gross misdemeanor and gave him 36 months of probation. He honorably discharged on July 26, 2018. 

“Now here we are,” said Banks. “In January 2019, he is again stealing property. Based on his inability to conform to society unless his hand is being held, the State believes the recommendations of the Division of Parole and Probation are appropriate.”

Banks asked the court to sentence Staas to prison for 16-72 months for each of the first two counts and 12-48 months for the third. He asked that the sentences run consecutively, one on top of the other.

Staas availed himself of the right to allocution. He spoke directly to the judge before sentencing.

“I’ve made some terrible mistakes in my life,” he said. “I understand the severity of what I’ve done. It tears me apart every day. There’s not a night that goes by I don’t dream about it.”

Drug court helped him in the past, he added. Staas also voluntarily attended family court.

“I want to better myself. I know what my triggers are—I was going through a divorce. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to kick is being with somebody and not using when they’re using. That was my big trigger. I believe with drug court and family court, I’ll be able to get the help I need. My daughters are a big part of my life. They need me. Their mom is going through a troubled time right now as well. I’m all they’ve got. I promise you this is the last time you’ll see me in this or any court.”

The judge gave Staas 12-72 months for count one,16-72 months for count 2 and 24-72 months for count 3.

“Mr. Banks had a good argument,” he said. “I’ll suspend the sentences with probation not to exceed five years. Those terms run consecutively. If you mess up, you’re going to prison for a long time.”

Staas must enroll in and complete the Humboldt County drug court program. He’s subject to random urinalysis whether in drug court or not.

For the term of his probation, he must limit contact with his ex-wife to childcare only.

“The final term of your probation is going to be a hard one,” said the judge. He sentenced Staas to 263 days in the Pershing County jail in addition to the 103 days he’s already served. The judge imposed the sentence as flat time, with no good time credits.

After his release, the Division of Parole and Probation will arrange monthly payments toward $7,785 in restitution.

“I’ll want regular reports from them that you’re getting it paid,” said the judge. “I’m asking Parole and Probation to give you no latitude. If you mess up, you’re going to prison.”