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Early release likely for 'three-strikes' inmate from Sonoma County

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 7:58 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 7:58 a.m.

A Sonoma County man serving life in prison for car theft under the state's tough three-strikes sentencing law could win his freedom as soon as Friday.

Jeffrey Michael Porter, 49, would be the first in the county to be released with the passage in November of Proposition 36, which changed the law to require that third "strikes" be serious or violent.

Porter, who has spent the past 14 years behind bars, contends he has never committed a violent or serious act. He's asking his sentencing judge, Allan Hardcastle, to set him free, claiming he has served enough time.

Hardcastle appeared to side with Porter at a hearing Wednesday. After a private meeting with prosecution and defense lawyers, he said he would announce his decision Friday.

"I think everyone's in agreement that no matter how the court configures it, he will have served the maximum that can be imposed," Hardcastle said from the bench.

Porter, who was brought to Sonoma County from Soledad state prison about a month ago, showed no reaction as he was led away in a wheelchair. But a friend who attended the hearing said he was pleased. Porter will live in religious-based transitional housing when he's released.

"I'm happy for him," said Don Booker of Sonoma. "I think it's time for him to get a shot."

Porter is among a half-dozen former Sonoma County residents who could be released under Proposition 36.

One of the next up for resentencing is Dale Curtis Gaines, 55, of Santa Rosa, who was sent away for 27 years to life in 1998 for possession of stolen computer equipment.

Proposition 36 passed with overwhelming support statewide. Backers said the three-strikes law needed to be changed because it led to unfair sentences and was contributing to prison overcrowding. It was enacted by voters in 1995 to target repeat offenders such as Richard Allen Davis, who went on to kidnap and strangle 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Petaluma in 1993.

Porter was sentenced in 1999 to 27 years to life for stealing a Toyota 4Runner from a San Francisco man. The punishment capped a life of crime that included two prior burglary convictions.

Porter's lawyer, interim Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi, said the passage of Proposition 36 means Porter's maximum sentence is eight years. She asked Hardcastle for his immediate release.

She said there appeared to be no other barriers.

Prosecutor Scott Jamar told Hardcastle there was nothing in Porter's prison record to indicate that he could be a danger to the community.

On the contrary, Jamar said Porter's record contained a number of certificates of achievement.

Friends said Porter completed classes through a community college in the Monterey area.

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