Sierra Vista Man Could Still Get Probation Despite Failing To Appear For Sentencing

JUDGE CAN OPT FOR LENGTHY PROBATION TERM OVER SHORT PRISON STINT

Charles Joseph Tillman [Photo courtesy Cochise County Sheriff's Office]

A Sierra Vista man slated to be sentenced later this month in three felony cases remains in the Cochise County jail after failing to appear for a May hearing and becoming the subject of an arrest warrant which required $50,000 bail.

Charles Joseph Tillman will be sentenced July 13 to either a term of 2.5 years in state prison or 11 years of supervised probation. The decision is at the discretion of Presiding Judge James Conlogue, who will have the benefit of a pre-sentencing assessment from the Adult Probation Department.

Tillman, 28, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of possession of methamphetamine and one count of failure to appear for a court-ordered hearing on Jan. 8. It is the second plea deal Tillman signed in recent weeks with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office – one signed in March was voided when Tillman failed to appear (FTA) for a May 4 sentencing hearing.

His absence from the May hearing allowed the prosecutor to withdraw the plea deal. A new plea agreement was negotiated and addresses the fact Tillman was found in possession of meth when arrested on the warrant May 14.  He was also charged at the time with resisting arrest and taking contraband into a correctional facility.

As part of the first plea deal, Tillman was promised a prison sentence of 2.5 years, although Conlogue had discretion to order four years of probation instead.

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But under the second plea deal, Tillman is only eligible for probation if he agrees to enter a sober living facility or in-patient treatment program. And if the judge puts Tillman on probation, it would be for a period of 11 years.

Otherwise, Conlogue will have to sentence Tillman to 2.5-years in prison as the plea deal prohibits the judge from imposing a sentence of prison followed by probation.

Prosecutor Dan Akers did not pursue a second FTA charge in the new plea deal but could have added a charge for Tillman’s absence from the May sentencing hearing if the case went to trial.

Under Arizona law, a judge or jury can try a defendant in absentia in most situations, but the defendant must be present in court for sentencing. A defendant whose failure to appear for sentencing delays the proceedings more than 90 days can lose some rights of appeal.

Tillman also has two open misdemeanor cases in the Sierra Vista Justice Court. Those charges allege criminal trespass, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest, and shoplifting.

He is scheduled to be back in court on those cases Sept. 9. Tillman faces up to six months in jail for each of the charges.