Durango man gets 23 years
April 8, 2006
By Shane Benjamin
Herald Staff Writer
A Fort Lewis College honors
graduate was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison Friday after
being found guilty of 26 felonies, including criminal libel.
Davis Temple Stephenson, 38, hung
his head low as District Judge David Dickinson read the prison
sentence - as little as one year for some felonies and as much as
two and a half years for others. Some convictions will be served
Stephenson also was sentenced to
one and a half years for violating bail conditions.
He was facing an estimated 45 1/2
years in prison, Dickinson said.
"It's the most complicated case
I've ever had to deal with," he said at the end of the hearing.
Stephenson's lawyer, Rae Dreves of
Durango, said Stephenson plans to appeal.
According to prosecutors,
Stephenson instilled fear and terror into his victims' lives by
spreading lies over the Internet, creating fake posters and sending
phony letters. He usually targeted anyone in a position of
authority: jail guards, a police officer, a landlord, a college
newspaper editor and several Fort Lewis College professors.
One example of how he victimized
was creating a Web site in a professor's name identifying her as a
sexual deviant and asking anyone reading to come rape her. He then
posted the professor's home address.
He also sent a fake obituary to an
Alaskan newspaper announcing that a jail guard had died of AIDS. The
guard was actually alive and well.
The behavior lasted about three
years, while he was a student, from late 1999 to 2003, said Deputy
District Attorney Todd Norvell.
"This is the kind of guy who can be
people's worst nightmare," Norvell said after the sentencing. "He's
the kind of guy the Department of Corrections is made for, and I'm
glad he's going."
Also as part of the sentence,
Stephenson cannot touch a computer for 23 years.
Before sentencing, Stephenson
apologized for his behavior. He began sobbing, but it was an act
Judge Dickinson didn't buy. "I'm not buying the remorse," Dickinson
Stephenson said he considered his
behavior at the time to be little more than "pranks and parodies and
tasteless humor" meant to embarrass people he considered as "casual
friends." He thought all his actions were covered by the First
Amendment, which guarantees free speech. But now, Stephenson said he
sees his actions were more serious than he intended. "I'm very sorry
if I hurt anyone emotionally or otherwise."
Stephenson established a pattern of
run-ins with the law, totalling 33 up until this most recent
incident, said Norvell. Some were as minor as traffic offenses.
Others were more serious, such as credit card fraud, said Durango
Police Capt. Dale Smith.
Some 25 people attended the
sentencing hearing, including Nate Hiatt, who served on the jury for
one of Stephenson's trials. Hiatt said he wanted to see the case to
"Being on the jury, you kind of
feel like these are serious charges, and if you find guilty you
should be prepared to accept the fact that your verdict will have a
real impact on the accused's life," he said.
Hiatt never saw Stephenson speak
during the trial, and he was curious to see what Stephenson had to
say. But after watching Stephenson's tearful apology, Hiatt said: "I
didn't buy his act."