Judge tempers justice with mercy after receiving letter from defendant’s father

Judge John J. Walton presiding during David Wiegand's sentencing hearing in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After more than a year of continuances and legal wrangling, a St. George man was sentenced Thursday in the aggravated robbery case involving a pizza-delivery woman.

L-R: Defense attorney Aric Cramer (standing) and David Vova Wiegand during sentencing hearing in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

David Vova Wiegand, 22, appeared in 5th District Court for sentencing on second-degree felony attempted aggravated robbery and misdemeanor failing to stop for an officer’s command after pleading guilty to the charges Aug. 9.

The charges stem from an incident reported in April 2018 when a pizza-delivery woman arrived at an apartment to make a delivery, but when there was nobody at the address, she started walking back to her car.

Wiegand ran into the parking lot and pulled two knives on the woman, and when she pulled out a taser and pointed it at him, he fled on foot. She then called police.

Responding officers found Wiegand walking around, and once he saw police, he started running away, refusing to stop at the command of the officers. He was later found hiding under a car with two kitchen knives nearby. When police asked him about the alleged assault, Wiegand told the officers he could not remember anything that happened that night.

Under the terms of the August plea agreement, the state agreed to amend the initial charge from aggravated robbery to attempted aggravated robbery and drop the aggravated assault charge. Additionally, Wiegand’s defense attorney, Aric Cramer, stipulated that his client would serve no more than one year in jail, with a prison sentence taken off the table, to which the state agreed.

In the meantime, the defendant’s father wrote a letter to 5th District Judge John J. Walton providing some background into Wiegand’s situation and the events that lead up to the incident. The letter stated that Wiegand was adopted from an orphanage in eastern Europe as a child, and there were emotional issues involved with his life prior to the adoption that have had lasting effects for both the defendant and his adoptive family.

Walton told the defendant Thursday that when he gets an offender before him with a charges as serious as those Wiegand was facing, that typically there is a long, escalating criminal history.

“In this case there is nothing else,” Walton said. “I don’t see any criminal cases at all – there is nothing here.”

Defense attorney Aric Cramer addresses the court during David Wiegand’s sentencing hearing in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Cramer said it is a “highly unusual case, which is why I have a highly unusual request of the court,” continuing to request a lesser sentence than what was previously discussed while negotiating the plea agreement. At that point, both the prosecutor and the defense were called to the bench for a discussion.

Walton said the letter written by the defendant’s father “explained a lot” and continued by saying that a prison term would not serve the defendant nor the state and that the defendant needed help.

Prosecutor Jerry Jeager said the state wants the same thing for the defendant, as does the pizza-delivery person.

“The victim (delivery driver) is actually a very forgiving individual,” Jeager said. “And she just wants him to get the help he needs.”

During sentencing, Walton suspended the prison sentence of 1-15 years and the maximum fine for attempted aggravated robbery, along with the 364-day jail sentence that was to run concurrent on the misdemeanor.

Instead, the defendant was placed on 36 months probation with Adult Probation and Parole and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine. He was also ordered to continue with his mental health treatment and ordered to pay $17.15 in restitution to Domino’s Pizza.

Wiegand was also ordered to continue counseling, which was one of the recommendations of the presentence investigation report completed prior to the hearing, but Walton did not order the defendant to obtain a substance-abuse evaluation, since Cramer said the incident “was not substance-abuse generated.” The state agreed.

Additionally, the court ordered that the recommended 210 days the defendant was to serve be stayed as long as he completes the requirements of the sentence. The court also agreed to the defense’s request for a a two-level reduction of the felony charge upon the successful completion of probation, which would reduce the felony to a misdemeanor.

The judge also recommended that Wiegand apply for the interstate compact — an agreement between Utah and Illinois that allows sentencing and supervision requirements to be transferred so the defendant can return home.

Walton told the defendant that if he failed to complete the requirements or failed to comply with probation, he could be facing not only the suspended jail sentence but the prison sentence that was also suspended in the case.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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