A Long Beach man whose criminal case captured national attention when he was jolted in court with a 50,000-volt stun belt is appealing his 25-years-to-life sentence for petty theft received under the three-strikes law.
Ronnie Hawkins, a 50-year-old with AIDS whose courtroom outbursts prompted the jolt, filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday designed to win his release or a reduction in his sentence.
The petition filed by Venice civil rights attorney Steve Yagman asks that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley be ordered to court to say whether he would oppose Hawkins' efforts to win leniency. The petition cites Cooley's recent policy statement that he will not seek a life sentence when a defendant's third strike is not a serious or violent crime.
Hawkins was convicted in 1999 of stealing $265 worth of aspirin from a market. That conviction came during the administration of Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, whose policy allowed prosecution of a petty offense as a third strike.
Although Yagman's petition does not specifically ask a judge to reduce or terminate Hawkins' sentence, the attorney said the judge could approve such leniency if Cooley doesn't oppose it.
The petition does not allege any breach of legal authority in the sentencing, Yagman said, adding that "we are simply appealing to Cooley's mercy."
The district attorney's office has not decided whether it will oppose Yagman's petition, but spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Cooley's "policy is not applied retroactively."