WASHINGTON – An appeals court has ordered a new sentence for a man convicted of carjacking, kidnapping and possession of a firearm, saying a lower court should not have used a death threat to increase his sentence to 17 years.
But a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld Jaron Reevey’s convictions, rejecting his claims that the lower court erred when it refused his request for a new attorney and refused to admit evidence.
The published opinion means that Reevey will have at least two years knocked off his jail time when he is resentenced, his attorney said Thursday.
Reevey was sentenced to seven years for gun possession and just over 10 years for carjacking and kidnapping. His attorney, Kelli C. McTaggart, said the appeals court ruling means he cannot be sentenced to more than 97 months — just over eight years — for the carjacking and kidnapping convictions.
The case began in January 2002 when Reevey and his girlfriend, Sabrina Wright, were in Richmond. Aaron Jones had agreed to give them a ride to the bus station so they could return to New Jersey, but after loading his luggage into the car, Reevey asked Jones to drive them to New Jersey instead.
When Jones refused, Reevey offered to pay. Jones declined again, saying his Chevrolet Cavalier was in no shape for a long trip.
At that point, Reevey pulled a handgun, and told Wright to do likewise. They made Jones lie on the floor, handcuffed his wrists behind his back and Reevey threatened to shoot Jones if he did not cooperate. They put Reevey in the trunk and left for New Jersey.
On their way, Reevey stopped at the Greyhound terminal in downtown Baltimore to use the bathroom and get a refund on the bus ticket. While they were there, Jones freed himself from the trunk, but Reevey saw him and threatened again to shoot Jones if he did not calm down.
But when a nearby police officer approached, Jones said he had been kidnapped. Reevey and Wright jumped into the car and tried to leave.
Other officers responded, blocking Reevey’s escape with a police cruiser. Reevey rammed past the patrol car but then crashed into a wall, where police said he got out and drew his gun.
Officers said they heard two gun shots — even though court records said Reevey’s gun later proved “inoperable.” They opened fire, shooting 42 times and hitting Reevey eight times before he collapsed. He spent several weeks in the hospital.
At trial, Reevey asked for new lawyers, saying his attorneys spent more time arranging a plea bargain than preparing for the case. He also argued to admit evidence that his guns did not work, and he could not have fired the shots police said caused them to open fire on him.
But the trial judge rejected both requests. U.S. District Judge Frederic Smalkin said Reevey was being tried for crimes that occurred before the shooting began, and that admitting the ballistics evidence “may have confused the issues or misled the jury.”
Reevey raised both issues on appeal, but the appellate panel disagreed and upheld the convictions.
It agreed with the contention, however, that Smalkin wrongly cited Reevey’s threat to shoot Jones when he enhanced Reevey’s carjacking and kidnapping sentence. Convicting him of gun possession and accusing him of making a death threat amounted to “double counting” of the same charge, the court said.
“We agree with Reevey on this point,” Judge Robert B. King wrote for the court. “The threat-of-death enhancement resulted in an impermissible double counting, and the sentencing court thereby erred.”
It sent the case back to district court for resentencing.
McTaggart said Reevey has not decided if he will continue to challenge his conviction.
“I just spoke with him briefly this morning,” she said. “He hasn’t even seen the opinion, so we are still discussing what our options are.”
-30- CNS 04-08-04