By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
A former Chehalis man — convicted twice of crimes committed while in jail or prison — made a final plea Thursday for leniency at his sentencing a week after being convicted of forging signatures of Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, another prosecutor and two police officers.
“It wasn’t done with intent to injure these people. Obviously I read the statutes wrong,” he said through tears. “I don’t know how I seen this wrong. I don’t know what I did wrong. It was never about anything other than trying to exercise my right.”
Amos was found guilty by a jury last week on four counts of forgery and four counts of first-degree criminal impersonation for forging the signatures on legal documents claiming settlements on bonds held by Meyer, Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and Centralia Police Department officers Chad Withrow and Adam Haggerty.
Superior Court Judge James Lawler noted that Amos used a similar argument with the jury, who voted to convict him.
“It’s not really remorse I’m seeing,” he said.
Lawler sentenced Amos to 116 months in prison, or about 10 years, to begin after he is done serving his current prison term of 12 years for a 2014 Lewis County conviction.
Cowlitz County Deputy Prosecutor Don Richter, who acted as a special prosecutor in the case, asked for the top end of the standard sentencing range for each forgery conviction — 29 months — and asked that each sentence run consecutively, rather than concurrently as they would normally, for a sentence of 116 months.
“What stands out first to me is frankly the history,” he said.
Richter noted that Amos has 21 previous felony convictions. He also argued that because Amos’s recent forgery and criminal impersonation convictions are against four separate victims, three out of the four would not get adequate justice if the 29-month sentences ran at the same time.
“Four different families were taken advantage of by Mr. Amos,” he said.
He asked for a 12-month sentence for each criminal impersonation conviction, also the top end of the standard range, but asked it to run consecutively with the 116 months for the forgery counts.
Halstead and Meyer each addressed Lawler during the sentencing hearing, asking him to go along with Richter’s sentencing recommendation.
“I think Mr. Amos has yet to learn — everything he does, there’s a consequence for,” Halstead said. “He just doesn’t get it.”
Halstead noted that he prosecuted Amos’s last case, in which he pleaded guilty to 14 crimes and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2014. He said at the end of that case, he thought Amos would turn his life around.
Meyer told Lawler he was dismayed at how attacks against elected officials and members of law enforcement have become personal. He also said he views Amos’ recent crimes as an offense against the justice system.
“I think the system needs to speak back and tell him this is not acceptable,” he said. “What’s his next step? Sending someone to my house?”
Amos defended himself in his three-day trial last week.
“I just want to let you know, this is one of the hardest things I’ve done,” he said Thursday.
Amos, 34, has spent much of his adult life in prison. He spoke at his sentencing hearing Thursday of a conviction at 16 that sent him to prison for 10 years.
He pleaded guilty in that case, but fought to withdraw his plea, claiming misconduct from attorneys in the case. He was later allowed to withdraw and amend his plea in 2009, according to court records.
He spent several years out of prison, but said he slid back into criminal behavior after finishing his term of supervision by the state Department of Corrections.
In 2013, he was arrested on suspicion of leading organized crime and other charges in Lewis County. The following year, he pleaded guilty to 14 counts, including tampering with a witness, first-degree computer trespass, possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or deliver, attempted possession of marijuana with intent, attempted forgery, three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver, four counts of delivery of a controlled substance, third-degree introducing contraband to a detention facility and second-degree attempted theft, after being accused of continuing his criminal enterprise from jail.
Amos argued throughout his trial last week and at his sentencing hearing Thursday that he was forced to plead guilty in that case because of misconduct by Meyer, Halstead, Withrow and Haggerty.
He filed a lawsuit last year against the four men, then filed the notice of subrogation bonds, which resulted in the eight charges and conviction. After the conviction, he withdrew the lawsuit. A separate personal restraint petition is pending a decision by the state Court of Appeals.