THIS JUST IN: JUDGE LOWREY HAS SENTENCED THOMAS WOOLLY TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON.
Good afternoon court watchers,
This is John Ensslin, coming to you live today from Division 12, where in a few minutes a sentencing hearing will begin for Thomas Edward Woolly.
The former Fort Carson soldier could face up to three years in prison when he is sentenced today in the criminally negligent homicide of a 19-year-old Colorado Springs woman.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Robert L. Lowrey is scheduled to sentence Woolly in the May 10, 2009 fatal shooting of Lisa Baumann.
Woolly has grown a beard since he was found guilty following a trial.
The small courtroom is packed with about 24 people. Half the room is filled with members of Baumann’s family and the other half with Woolly’s family.
Woolly, a 26-year-old Iraq War veteran, was playing video games with Baumann and several other people when the shooting occurred in an apartment at 4116 Westmeadow Drive.
On Dec. 15, a jury found the former Army gunner guilty of criminal negligent homicide, but acquitted him of the more serious charge of reckless manslaughter.
As a result, Woolly faces a sentence of between 1 to 3 years in prison. Probation and community corrections are also a possibility.
The defense is going first.
Woolly’s wife Sarah is addressing the judge. She describes what it was like when Woolly came back from Iraq.
“When he left he was a 24-year-old man,” she said. “When he came back he was more like my grandfather. He can’t do the stuff he used to do,” she said, alluding to his war injuries.
“Learning to deal with that pain was a big trial for us,” she said.
“I never thought in 100 years that the injuries he’s sustained could cause something like this to happen,” she added.
She turned half-way to face the Baumann family.
“He’s not dreaming of me,” she said. “He’s dreaming of a girl he will never be able to hold or touch.”
“We just hope that someday you guys can forgive us,” she added.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Woolly was experienced with guns and acted recklessly when a single shot from his .45 caliber revolver ripped through his knee and hit Baumann in the neck.
But defense attorney Patrick Mika argued that it was an accidental shooting that occurred when Woolly drew his weapon after hearing a disturbance at the front door of the apartment.
When the shooting occurred, Woolly was a member of the Warriors Transition Unit as he underwent a medical discharge. He had been injured in Iraq by an improvised explosive device. He was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Mika told the judge that his client has felt remorse almost from moment the shooting occurred, when he apologized to Baumann as she lay dying in his arms.
“I can assure you that he continues everyday to suffer that anguish and sorrow,” Mika said.
Mika said 4-5 seconds of Woolly’s behavior created this tragedy.
He asked the judge and Baumann family to weigh Woolly’s entire life against those seconds.
“He is a war hero and someone who has been – for the better part of his life – has been protecting others,” Mika continued.
“He is physically and mentally a wreck from his experience in the war,” the lawyer added.
He asked that Woolly be sentenced to probation.
“He will honor Lisa Baumann by doing good for the rest of his life,” Mika said.
“I don’t believe that because Thomas is really a war hero, that he should get a pass,” Mika said. But probably because of his physical and mental condition, that contributed to what happened.”
Now it’s the prosecution’s turn.
Baumann’s mother Patty Greene addresses the court via telephone from Illinois. She’s reading a letter from Baumann’s brother Perry Greene.
“All I hope is that every time he looks in the mirror, he sees the family he tore apart,” the letter read. “I pray we never cross paths.”
“This was no mistake or accident,” he added. “this was an avoidable tragedy.”
Next, Patty Greene reads from her own letter.
She described how Baumann had been planning to return to Illinois for Mother’s Day and her mother’s birthday in the weeks before her death.
“I hold a lot of people responsible for her death,” her mother said. “God’s judging all those people.”
“Thomas Woolly, however, pulled that trigger firing the bullet that killed my beautiful Lisa.”
“He’s blown a huge hole in my life that will never heal,” she added.
Greene talked about how earlier in the case, a plea bargain was offered to Woolly that would have resulted in his going to prison for 6 to 7 years. That seemed unfair, Greene said. But ultimately she agreed to go along with it.
But instead Woolly opted to take the case to trial. Now she noted he is considering appealing his verdict.
“I’ve already given my forgiveness,” Greene said, adding that she won’t give it again.
“If he had taken the plea to begin with…he would have been almost done by now,” Greene said.
“For God’s sake. He’s killed my daughter” she added. “Mother’s Day will have a whole new meaning for me. Thank you very much.”
Rather than send Woolly to prison where he could stew about his sentence, Greene asked the judge to sentence him to the longest possible probation or community corrections sentence.
She asked that he be required to work with rescue horses, noting that her daughter’s dream someday was to work as a large animal veterinarian.
Deputy District Attorney Jack Roth is showing a silent slide show of pictures of Baumann, from an infant surrounded by baloons and birthday cake to a young woman on a motorcycle. A woman is quietly weeping in the back of the courtroom.
The slideshow also shows a pictures of her casket and headstone and grave.
Deputy District Attorney Sharon Flahery sums up for the prosecution.
“A jury spoke. They told him (Woolly) that what he did was wrong.”
He was an Army soldier trained at handling multiple kinds of firearms,” she added.
“At any time that night, if he chose something different, Lisa Baumann would still be alive.”
Flaherty asked that Woolly be sentenced to 10 years supervised probation plus 500 hours community service, preferably with horse breeding organizations in keeping with Lisa’s memory.
Now it’s Woolly’s turn to speak. He turns to Baumann’s family.
“I never wanted this to happen,” he tells them.
He says he took the case to trial, not because he didn’t think he had done wrong, but because he believed it was an accident.
“I will honor her life for the rest of my life,” Woolly said. “I see her everyday before I go to sleep at night and each morning before I wake up.”
“There’s nothing I can say,” he added. “I’m sorry.”
I’ll end this blog here.