Zigler scolds, sentences Vincent
Sentence sends woman to Texas County facility
by C.F. David
A decision on Friday, April 15, by District One Judge Greg Zigler, will send Stephanie Vincent to Texas County's Detention Center.
An obviously agitated Zigler looked at Vincent and explained that her sentence would be served in Texas County's Detention Center. He continued by saying that when he had toured the unit it reminded him of a maximum security prison and that perhaps such an atmosphere would impress upon her the gravity of her actions.
Vincent, on January 20, changed her plea of innocent and pled guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree, (a felony), for the January 1, 2004 vehicular death of Brandon Abrahamson, 20, of Borger, Texas.
Abrahamson was a passenger in Vincent's truck when it left the road early that morning, five miles west and 16 miles north of Boise City.
On January 20, this year, Vincent testified that she had been drinking for several hours before getting behind the wheel of the vehicle.
Vincent also pled to charges of transportation of an open container, (whiskey), and a loaded handgun.
According to the original plea agreement Vincent would have received a five-year deferred sentence for the manslaughter, plus 90 days straight time in the county jail; in addition, six months jail time for the alcohol charge to run concurrent with the manslaughter and another six months to run consecutively for the weapons charge.
However, in Zigler's words, he found the plea agreement “repugnant” and made changes to the sentence that would have allowed Vincent to opt for a jury trial if she had wanted; she turned down the chance.
The procedures had opened with District Attorney Mike Boring expressing his frustration with the case. Boring cited tainted evidence in the form of poor blood work as the reason the state couldn't prove Vincent was legally intoxicated when she drove the truck off the curve.
“We feel we can prove negligent homicide. But we think it's more than that,” Boring said. “We would like to add time to the incarceration,” he added.
Vincent's attorney, Craig Rittenhouse stood, “It's obvious the state has errors in its case. But I'm concerned she might be convicted of Negligent Homicide. We think the risk is too great, and I think the wisest move is to take the risk out.”
Zigler looked at Vincent, “ Mrs. Vincent, I'm going to be very candid. I'm sure, on January 20 when you heard me ask for a presentencing investigation that was alarming to you...if not...I'm sure it was a jolt to your council.”
Zigler continued by saying that the plea agreement had been weighing on his mind for nearly three months.
“I'm not faulting Mr. Manske, or Mr. Boring; this is a tough thing for a District Attorney to stand before a judge and say these things. I have...many many times since January compelled myself to try and find the justice in this plea agreement.”
“You told me that you were intoxicated. You took a life.”
Zigler then looked at the court record where Vincent had testified she had driven with Abrahamson and Anthony Hernandez from the home on the river to Boise City to buy snuff.
He looked at Vincent, “I don't buy that one bit.”
Zigler then made reference to Vincent's altercation at the river house with Travis Gray, a former boyfriend. The argument preceded Vincent's pursuit of Gray towards Boise City and the fateful return trip.
“You had words with him, (Gray) you certainly got that accomplished,” Mrs Vincent.
Zigler's voice turned stern as he leaned toward Vincent, “You were mad and intoxicated and focused within that anger. You had no regard for any other human being.”
Zigler then read in the court record where Anthony Hernandez had attempted to drive the truck after Vincent had overtaken Gray. “This is something that speaks to the court. The pre-sentencing investigation is painting a picture,” Zigler said.
“It is obvious...whatever happens, it will be your way..you'll be in control.”
“But right there was an opportunity for the history of your life, Anthony Hernandez's life and Brandon Abrhamson's life to have been different; and we in this court would've never known each other,” Zigler said.
At this point, Vincent's attorney stood and informed Zigler that Hernandez had testified that he too was intoxicated.
The judge turned back to the record and read aloud how Hernandez had, on the return trip tried to get Vincent to slow down.
Zigler looked up from the record, “Again, it's obvious to Mr. Hernandez that he's in jeopardy. He keeps nudging you with his elbow trying to get you to slow down, and you don't.”
Sometime time after that, in a very selfish and reckless way, you took the life of another human being...Brandon Abrahamson...so...we all meet here today.” “Mrs. Vincent, there is no excuse for anyone driving intoxicated,” Zigler emphasized.
“The court has been looking for the justice in the plea agreement, and I went to an old dictionary for a definition of justice...on it's face, the plea agreement doesn't do that, (match the definition).
“A case such as this polarizes a community...some say, she's guilty, put her away and throw away the key. Others put it down to a mistake, an indiscretion, or somewhere in between. It's my responsibility that justice is done here.”
Zigler looked back at Vincent, “I get to say these things because you've pled guilty.”
“I don't like, the plea agreement. It has weighed as heavy as any plea agreement I've ever wrestled with in 15 years on the bench. I now understand it, but that doesn't mean it's any less repugnant to me.”
“It was an absolutely senseless, selfish death, and I'm really concerned about your remorse. I really question if you truly, truly, truly have any grasp of the ultimate and lasting effect of your actions. It just haunts me Mrs. Vincent. But that's your responsibility young lady. I hope someday you'll grasp. But I really question if today is that day. “This is nothing personal. There is a portion of the judicial creature that I am that does not want to accept this plea agreement. I feel the court's hands are tied. I so badly do not want to accept this plea agreement. This is so troubling to me. But yet, I have to understand and I do now. But, I don't like it and I'm not going to like it for a long, long time.”
Zigler first turned to the five year deferred sentence and Vincent's responsibilities and the result if she violated parole after her release from incarceration.
“You so much as violate any of those rules and conditions...”
He then told Vincent she would live by the rules and conditions, “...every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week of every month of every year of the sentence and that any violation reported to him would result in her being incarcerated in a state facility for the completion of the sentence.
Zigler then informed Vincent that she would be incarcerated in Texas County's Detention Center.
“This is no reflection on the Cimarron county Sheriff.”
Zigler then explained that when he had toured the facility before it's opening it reminded him of a maximum prison facility.
Zigler looked at Vincent, “Maybe that'll help make a little statement to you.”
Zigler then informed the court that the two six month terms would run day for day with no time off for time already served.
Count two, (transportation of alcohol ) will run concurrently with count one; and count three, (transportation of a loaded firearm) will run consecutive with count two, so Vincent will spend at least one full year in jail.
Zigler then told Vincent and her council that $3,150 in jail fees are due in advance.
Rittenhouse then asked for and received permission for Vincent to remain on a reduced bond of $10 thousand until April 25 so that she could get her business in order before her incarceration.
Zigler then explained that upon her release from jail in one year that she and her home would be subject to unannounced visits to make sure she was abiding by the rules and conditions of her probation.
“Do you understand my commitment to you if you live up to those rules and conditions? Zigler asked.
Vincent responded that she did.
Do you understand my commitment to you if you don't live up to them?” he asked.
Again, she answered, “Yes.”
Zigler then explained that Vincent would have a fine of $3 thousand on the manslaughter plea, plus $1 thousand for victim's compensation; and fines of $500 on each of the other charges plus another $50 victim's compensation.
Zigler reduced her present $20 thousand bond to $10 allowing her to use part of the money to make payments ahead on property for one year; the remaining $10 will be used to pay her fines and jail fees.
Zigler then clarified some questions Vincent had about rules and conditions of her probation, what restaurants she could enter and the fact that she should ask before entering any vehicle if there is a gun inside.
“Your responsibility is to in no way, possess, purchase or consume alcohol.”
“You cannot enter any establishment if their primary source of income is derived from alcohol,” Zigler explained.
“If you enter a restaurant and there is a separate bar area, you can't go in there,” he added. “When you are released from incarceration you must carry those rules and conditions with you at all times; and if there is ever any doubt in your mind of what you should do, it would behoove you to take them out and read them,” Zigler said.
Zigler then told Vincent that at 10 a.m., April 25, 2005 she must surrender to Cimarron County Sheriff Keith Borth, who would then transfer her to Texas County.
On April, 15, 2010, depending on Vincent's behavior, the felony may or may not be expunged from her record.