From The New York Times:
By Dave Phillips and Richard A Oppel, Jr | November 6, 2017
COLORADO SPRINGS — Before a gunman entered a rural Texas church with a ballistic vest and a military-style rifle, killing at least 26 people on Sunday, he was convicted of assaulting his wife and breaking his infant stepson’s skull.
In 2012, while stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Devin P. Kelley, 26, was charged with “assault on his spouse and assault on their child,” according to the Air Force.
“He assaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull, and he also assaulted his wife,” said Don Christensen, a retired colonel who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force. “He pled to intentionally doing it.”
He was sentenced in November of that year to 12 months’ confinement and reduction to the lowest possible rank. After his confinement, he was discharged from the military with a bad conduct discharge. It is unclear whether his conviction would have barred him from purchasing a gun.
The case marked a long downward slide that included divorce and being charged with animal cruelty.
There’s more at the original, but everything you need to know has been quoted above: he assaulted both his wife and his stepson, seriously enough that he broke the infant’s skull. He pleaded guilty to that, probably in exchange for the light sentence he received. Had he been sentenced appropriately, he would not have killed 26 people in Texas, because he would still be in jail!
This is a far-too-common problem with our criminal justice system: some really bad people are committing crimes, because they were turned loose after too short a sentence for previous crimes. I wrote, long ago, about Corey Deen Saunders, who was released early from prison by Bristol County (Massachusetts) Superior Court Associate Justice Richard T. Moses, from his conviction on the attempted rape of a seven-year-old boy, who then raped a six-year-old boy, when, if the idiot judge hadn’t released him early, he would still have been in prison.
I also noted the case of Daniel Giddings, who murdered Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald. He was a convicted felon who had been given the legal minimum sentence by a soft-hearted and soft-headed Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge by the name of Lynn B. Hamlin, despite a very lengthy and violent record, and despite the pleas of Assistant District Attorney Joseph Coolican, who said there was “absolutely no reason to believe” that it would ever be safe to release Mr Giddings. While in prison, Mr Giddings was constantly in trouble: he was charged 27 times with disciplinary problems in prison and spent 537 days in solitary confinement. Still, prison officials recommended him for parole.
Children have been raped, and police officers killed, because our criminal justice system has been too lenient on very bad people. Mr Giddings should still have been in prison when he murdered Officer McDonald, but he wasn’t, due to an incompetent judge. Mr Saunders should still have been in prison when he raped his six-year-old victim, but he wasn’t, due to an incompetent judge.
And the Texas shooter should still have been in prison when he killed 26 people, but he wasn’t, because the military justice system treated his crimes unseriously.
Not every massacre can be stopped this way; the Las Vegas killer had no criminal record. But Devin Kelley would have been stopped, would still have been in prison had the Air Force not allowed a guilty plea for a minimum sentence.
Update: I received this tweet:
No, his sentence was the max according to military law. I'm an ex JAG, btw.
— vassarbushmills (@bushmillsvassar) November 6, 2017
The military could have charged up, and had sentences run consecutively. If you strike an infant hard enough to fracture his skull, the charge should be attempted murder.
Second update, from The Washington Post:
By Alex Horton | November 6, 2017 | 6:15 PM
The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.
Kelley should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Kelley was sentenced to a year in prison and kicked out of the military with a bad conduct discharge following two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database,” Stefanek said in a statement released Monday. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelley’s case and “relevant policies and procedures,” she said.
Firearms retailer Academy Sports also confirmed Monday that Kelley purchased two weapons from its stores after passing federal background checks this year and last. It remains unclear whether those were the same weapons used in Sunday’s massacre, but his ability to purchase guns at all highlights the Air Force’s failure to follow Pentagon guidelines for ensuring certain violent offenses are reported to the FBI.
While military law does not classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors, Kelley’s sentence was a functional felony conviction, said Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer and professor at the Houston College of Law. A separate law prohibits violent offenders from purchasing body armor, which Kelley was seen wearing during the rampage.
There’s more at the original.