MTV Actor on Suicide Watch in Colorado Jail

MTV actor Vincent Margera (known as Don Vito to viewers of "Viva La Bam" )is on a suicide watch in a Denver area jail after being convicted at trial yesterday of sexual assault on a child for fondling the breasts and buttocks of two teens at an autograph signing event at a skate park.

The charges carry a possible life sentence. If he gets any prison time, it will be the Sex Offender Treatment Board (a parole board)that decides how much time he does, not the Judge.

According to a 2006 Colorado Department of Corrections report, since 1998, 976 sex offenders have received indeterminate sentences. Only three have been granted parole, according to the report.

Margera collapsed when the verdict came in.

When the verdict was announced, Margera, 51, fell on the floor, saying: “Just kill me now. I can’t spend my (expletive) life in prison. I didn’t do anything.”

If he gets probation, it will be for at least ten years and up to life. If he goes to prison and somehow gets paroled, his parole will last for life.

Our sexual assault laws are over the top. Groping should not carry a possible sentence of life in prison. The nation’s hysteria over child sex offenders needs to be ratcheted down a few notches.

No one supports child sex abuse. But the punishment should fit the crime. This one doesn’t.

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    Potential life in prison.... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 08:39:15 AM EST
    for a one-time groping incident just about sums up how f*cked up our criminal justice system is.

    Off the top of the dome, 30 days sounds appropriate, not 30 years.

    This anti-law and order nut.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 01:19:51 PM EST
    could live with 3-6 months.  It is serious, though I don't think Don Vito is a habitual child-groper, this sounds like drunken tomfoolery (Don Vito's claim to fame btw) gone too far.

    If he is sentenced to time, I think the min. is 2 years if I understand the legal mumbo-jumbo correctly, with early parole a near impossibilty.  But there is a chance of only probation.  If he does 2 years that's crazy, anymore than 2 is a major travesty.


    The two years means (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:45:59 PM EST
    We have presumptive sentencing, and for a class 4 felony, it's 2 to 6 years. But most (if not all, I haven't checked lately) felony sex crimes in Colorado carry up to life in prison.

    Since it's 2 to 6 years presumptive, that means probation is allowed. (The term presumptive means in the ordinary case, that's the range the person should get, but if there are extraordinary aggravating or mitigating factors, the judge can give less, including probation, or more, usually up to twice the top of the range.)

    So Mangera either gets probation or a jail sentence the top end of which is life.

    If he gets a jail sentence, the Board (not the judge) decides if he ever gets out.

    As a condition of probation, Judges in Colorado can sentence the defendant to up to 90 or 120 days (I forget which right now)in the County Jail.

    The prosecutor acknowledged he was drunk during the incident. His lawyer said he was playing his character (it was an autograph signing event.)

    I hope he gets straight probation, or else, probation with some county jail.  The county he is in is a very tough, conservative one, very different than Denver. The Judge is fairly new to the bench, a former federal and state prosecutor. I like her though, and as a prosecutor I thought she was pretty fair.

    Magera also has a great lawyer, Pam Mackey, who defended Kobe Bryant.

    So maybe it will work out.


    Thanks for the education...n/t (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:47:56 PM EST
    We need the Colorado lawyer (none / 0) (#17)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:53:04 PM EST
     to explain, but my understanding is

    (A) the judge is not required to sentence him to prison but may impose a probation sentence of not less than 10 years (with additional condition);


    (B) Sentence him to indeterminate sentences of imprisonment which are 2 to life and 6 to life respectively. If he is sentenced to imprisonment the minimum is 2 years on at least charge and 6 on at least charge. Once sentenced to imprisonment by the court, his release could in no circumstances be earlier  than the minimum for any respective sentence and would be entirely in the discretion of a parole commission. Meaning the judge cannot sentence him to any specific term and has no jurisdiction overthe timing of his release (other than it can't be prior to his minimum.

      I would think the judge could impose prison on one and probation on others and certainly could make a non-binding "recommendation" that would be without legal force but possible weighed by the parole commission.

      I don't know if Colorado law allows judges to impose probation with conditions of incarceration for a portion of the term, "half-way house" detention, home confinement and the like which allow a judge to imposr what he considers needed but reasonable confienment while avoiding the longer sentences required if he phrases his order as one of imprisonment.


    Thanks Jeralyn, (none / 0) (#18)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:55:33 PM EST
     I see you answered these questions before i completed my post.

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Lora on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 08:45:44 AM EST
    Here's another way to whip up mass hysteria and divert the country from other stuff...like wars and torture and the economy and minor things like that.

    The fallout is that everybody suffers:  those who make minor errors are treated worse than murderors, children who are being seriously abused will not be taken seriously, the public will have another false diversion to focus all their real fears and worries upon, and the politicians will exploit it to the fullest.

    Rehab (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Natal on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 03:39:21 PM EST
    The emphasis should be on rehab or counselling. Punishment will do little to correct character flaws.

    This Makes Stoning Look Good (1.00 / 0) (#9)
    by squeaky on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 12:23:32 PM EST
    And Given the choice Margera would choose stoning, I would. He will be tortured and killed in prison. Really, our culture is not so different from those we consider barbarian.

    Barbarians... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 12:36:39 PM EST
    whose barbarism is out of sight, out of mind.

    At least societies who stone in the public square are right out in the open with what they are all about.  We do our brand of stoning hidden behind prison walls.

    Before "life in prison" should even be a thought in anybodys mind, there better be a dead victim or a victim scarred for life.  This case has neither.


    Sigh, at our finer liberal blogs, I often find (none / 0) (#1)
    by jerry on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:17:06 AM EST
    people saying that sex offenders should be locked up and the key thrown away.  Here's one from yesterday: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_11/012400.php#1164428

    But it's not just this guy, I see it everywhere.  It's a frequent sentiment at Salon's Broadsheet.

    What I find worse is how we prevent sex offenders from living in many cities through zoning, force them to move from where they live, prevent them from getting off registries, make their names and addresses known, and this is true from dangerous individuals down to teenagers convicted of statutory rape (but consensual sex), and victims of false allegations of abuse (fathers or mothers in custody cases.)

    And if I care, it's because I was almost one of the latter, but my ex's story was so outlandish that no one could believe her.  She was successful in getting a TRO and a change in order that took months and thousands of dollars to overturn.

    Well, (none / 0) (#4)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 08:53:26 AM EST
      I don't consider groping 12 year olds a "minor error." I'd also suggest we wait until the guy is actually sentenced before we start claiming he is being treated too harshly.  Jeralyn is from Colorado and could probably explain the sentencing system better but it appears from the article that the judge has the option of sentencing him to prison under an indeterminate sentence OR sentencing him to probation with conditions including approved treatment.  

      I imagine there are some people who think probation and treatment is too lenient a punishment.

    minor relative to murder (none / 0) (#8)
    by Lora on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 12:14:54 PM EST
    I have no intent to minimize harm done to the girls.  I know that "gropers" of children often do very great harm to great numbers of children.  However, I do not think one fondling incident, wrong though it may be, harmful though it may be, should earn him a huge sentence.  Treatment and/or appropriate punishment, yes.  Unfortunately we really don't know very much about treating this type of perpetrator, and I believe it would be unfair to classify him the same way as those who commit horrendous crimes against children.

    Is his defense counsel also to blame? (none / 0) (#5)
    by bmenezes on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 10:42:37 AM EST
    I'd be interested in Jeralyn's perspective on how much of a factor Margera's defense counsel was in the verdict. To an outsider and a layperson, the defense that "he was just acting in character, as expected by the audience that came to see him" seemed crazy. As a juror, I would have taken that as tacit admission that he was groping, as his "outrageous" character might have, and therefore admitting to a crime. As a juror I'd also wonder if that defense then would mean that at a public appearance, James Gandolfini would be allowed to beat the crap out of or kill someone, if the audience was expecting to see Tony Soprano. A more extreme example, but I think analogous.

    Regardless of defense tactics.... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 10:50:31 AM EST
    the mere fact that life in prison is anywhere near the conversation is simply mind-blowing.

    How do things get this screwy?


    His lawyer (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 02:57:43 PM EST
    is excellent -- Pam Mackey -- who defended Kobe Bryant.

    There were videos of his actions, taken on cell phones, so it may not have been possible to deny it.

    But, from this article, during shoots he would go up to people and make it look like he was groping them when he wasn't. It was part of his schtick. Maybe that's what she was trying to show.

    According to the press release, Margera asked Talbert if he remembered that when taking pictures with fans during the ManiaTV shoots, Margera would put his hands around guy's necks like he was strangling them and drape his arm around girls' shoulders and put his hand in front of their breast so it looked like he was grabbing them. Talbert said Margera would ask how old women were before he took pictures with them during the ManiaTV shoots.

    Also, he was acquitted of the same charges with respect to a third girl who was there. So at least one of the girls was not credible.


    bmenezes (none / 0) (#7)
    by Claw on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 11:58:11 AM EST
    I know I'm not Jeralyn, but I will tell that these cases are incredibly difficult to win.  I've often made the grim joke that all a prosecutor really needs to do to get a conviction is stand up, look at the jury and say "child molestation."  Sex crimes involving minors are the worst when it comes to arousing the "well if he's sitting in court, he must be guilty" bias.  I'm guessing that the defense strategy arose out the fact that there were witnesses to the crime...I agree that the strategy is a bit bizarre but you have to work with what you've got.

    I agree with you (none / 0) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 03:00:14 PM EST
    Good points. Exactly, you have to accept "the facts beyond change" and develop a theory from there. You can't just make stuff up.

    The guy sounds like a POS, but (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 01:01:18 PM EST
    In Colorado, sex offenders can only be sentenced to probation for a minimum of 10 years, or an indeterminate life sentence. They can only be paroled from the indeterminate life sentence by the Colorado Parole Board. However, 9NEWS has obtained statistics that show of the nearly 1,000 people sentenced for felony sex offenses since 1998, only three have been paroled.
    this sounds way excessive for his crime.

    And he's got more charges against him:

    The 12-year-old girl said Margera touched her breast and commented "big boob," causing her to leave in embarrassment.

    The 14-year-old girl said Margera put a sticker on her breast and inner thigh.

    Ironically, Margera was acquitted on a charge involving a 12-year-old girl whose parents prompted the filing of charges by complaining to mall security and police.

    Margera had been charged with groping this girl's breast, but the girl testified that he came near but didn't touch it. She said he touched her buttocks and leg as he put his arm around her for the photo.

    Margera, who must register as a sex offender, faces possible sentences that include probation or prison. If sentenced to probation, he would have to serve at least 10 years and could remain under supervision for the rest of his life. If he receives prison time, the sentence could range from two to six years to life behind bars. He will be sentenced Dec. 20.

    He also could face a mandatory sentence of one year to 18 months in prison for allegedly breaking the conditions of his bail. He is charged with 12 counts in that case, which comes up for a preliminary hearing in December.

    the bail charge could be a big problem (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 03:10:49 PM EST
    As you point out, it's a one year mandatory minimum and I'm pretty sure it's consecutive to any time he gets in the sex case. So even if he got probation on the sex case, he'd get a year on this. Here's the press release from the DA's office on the bail violations.

    Here's the DA's statement after the sex assault conviction.


    Narius (none / 0) (#22)
    by Claw on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 03:33:19 PM EST
    Young girls DO know that the system will protect them.  Especially in cases like this, especially when there are witnesses, and especially when you, as counsel, have to sit at a table with a guy who 1) looks like a crazy child molester 2) is easily whipped into gibberish when confronted with facts he doesn't like.  I don't think this is shtick. Since hearing about this case, I've watched some video of "Don Vito," and he reminds me of some of my most brain dead clients.   Apparently there's a running joke on Bam Margera's show that involves giving Don Vito subtitles...funny, I guess...but sad.  The man's brain is clearly alcohol (I'm guessing) ravaged.  
    Does this excuse a crime, if one was committed?  No.  Does it perhaps mitigate?  Absolutely.  One might also ask why these girls were at this event and why they were groped.  I AM NOT SAYING IT'S OKAY.  I'm simply saying that celebrity hunting is not unprecedented.  

    Where's the deterrent? (none / 0) (#24)
    by InsanityRules on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 05:29:59 PM EST
    If we start giving people life sentences for groping (or for child porn like in AZ), what on earth will discourage people from continuing on to far more egregious offenses?  If you're already looking at life, why not just commit sexual assault?  The rape penalty can't be any worse than life, can it?  Might as well go all the way.

    But I only have one life to spend in prison, so what's the difference?  Maybe I'll have a better chance of getting away with it if there are no living victims.

    So now all of a sudden murder carries the same penalty as grabbing someone's tush.  In terms of punishment they are identical.  So what deterrent is there to draw the line anywhere in the whole rationalization?

    That's where I have a problem with harsh sentences for relatively less harmful crimes.

    THE SHOE (none / 0) (#26)
    by jcakes on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 08:49:00 PM EST
    My bestfriend was in the shoe with him!!!