A Sierra Vista man ordered to serve three years in prison even though a Cochise County Superior Court judge expressed concern the sentence agreed to in a plea deal was unnecessarily harsh will be back in court next month to argue for a reduced sentence.
Bryan Clyde Bays was sentenced Jan. 30 by Judge Laura Cardinal to two 1.5-year prison terms after pleading guilty to several incidents of domestic violence aggravated harassment involving a former girlfriend. He must serve the prison terms back-to-back.
Bays, 60, did not physically harm anyone during the incidents, but the woman and her family were subjected to threatening text messages and several acts of vandalism during a two-week period. He was transferred to the Arizona Department of Corrections earlier this month to serve his sentence, which Cardinal imposed “with a heavy heart” due to Bays’ ongoing mental health issues.
On Feb. 10, defense attorney Joseph DiRoberto filed a motion asking Cardinal to resentence Bays to a more appropriate punishment, even if it means going against the wishes of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office. A hearing on the motion is set for March 6.
“It seemed apparent that the Court’s overriding concern was that it was sentencing Mr. Bays to a lengthy prison term for being mentally ill, which the Court absolutely did not want to do,” DiRoberto noted.
In support of his motion, DiRoberto took the rare step filing an affidavit in which he reveals an in-chambers conversation he had prior to the sentencing hearing with Cardinal and the prosecutor, Deputy County Attorney Doyle Johnstun.
DiRoberto characterizes the judge as “visibly troubled” by the required three-year prison term and notes Cardinal suggested Johnstun modify the plea deal so Bays could be placed on probation or be given a shorter term in prison. He notes the prosecutor recognized Bays’ documented mental illness but refused to consider a lesser sentence because he believed Bays “needed to go to prison.”
Cardinal went on to conduct the sentencing hearing and imposed the stipulated three-year prison term. But DiRoberto’s motion contends the judge had authority to impose any sentence she deemed appropriate provided it conforms with state guidelines, even if the county attorney’s office objected.
Bays was arrested Oct. 9 following a two-week run of vandalism and harassment toward an ex-girlfriend who had obtained an order of protection against him.
On Sept. 22, 2019, the woman informed the Sierra Vista Police Department of several harassing text messages from phone numbers spoofed to mask the actual caller information. The next day someone “slimed” her vehicle, and on Sept. 26 all four of the car’s tires were punctured.
The same thing happened the next night to the car’s new tires, and again on Sept. 30.
Then on Oct. 2, the tire vandalism occurred for the fourth time. But police finally had a lead, because the woman had parked her car in an area of the apartment complex with security cameras.
According to a report by Sierra Vista Det. John Andela, the security footage captured someone puncturing the tires. The person’s face and torso were concealed by a blanket, but the person “walked with a distinctive gait” and appeared to be male, Andela noted.
On Oct. 6, the ex-girlfriend’s tires were punctured yet again. This time surveillance video showed a male in the area walking with the same unusual gait. He was wearing a white mask and hooded sweatshirt.
Andela set up undercover surveillance at the apartment complex, and shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 9 a man wearing a white mask and black cape walked by the ex-girlfriend’s car parked next to her daughter’s vehicle. Officers approached the scene when the man bent down. They found punctures to two tires on the daughter’s car.
Bays, who drove to the apartment complex in a relative’s car, was arrested on multiple charges of criminal damage, domestic violence stalking, and aggravated harassment in violation of a court order. He was released from the Cochise County jail on $50,000 cash bail pending trial, but in December the judge ordered Bays back into custody for violating his release conditions.
Court records show Bays faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted at trial of all 19 counts contained in a grand jury indictment.