Inmate who was wrongfully released from state prison sentenced to at least 20 years
Judges Richard McNamara and Larry Smukler sentence James Rand (center) to 20-47 years in prison for a variety of charges at Merrimack County Superior Court; Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Rand went on a crime spree shortly after being mistakenly released from the State Prison in Concord.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
Judges Richard McNamara (left) and Larry Smukler consult one another before sentencing James Rand to 20-47 years in prison for a variety of charges at Merrimack County Superior Court; Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Rand went on a crime spree shortly after being mistakenly released from the State Prison in Concord in March 2012.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
When James Rand was wrongfully released from state prison while awaiting sentencing on another crime, he was handed the perfect opportunity to show corrections officials that he wasn’t a danger to society, a prosecutor said yesterday in court.
Instead, within 48 hours Rand had robbed two women, one at knifepoint, attempted to steal a car and given the police a fake name.
At Rand’s sentencing yesterday – on those charges and also the five counts of receiving stolen property he had pending when he was mistakenly paroled in March 2012 – Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Wayne Coull asked that Rand spend the next 25 to 59 years of his life in prison.
He told Judges Larry Smukler and Richard McNamara, who in a rare setup jointly decided Rand’s sentence because they had each presided over one of his trials, that the 53-year-old man is incapable of functioning in society.
Since he turned 18, Rand has never spent more than 90 days not incarcerated, he said.
“James Rand is a criminal who essentially, when released, creates violent crimes and unfortunately just makes an expanding pool of victims. He is a menace to our society,” Coull said. “And when given an opportunity to be released by the state, he victimizes two people. He showed us exactly what he is, and I don’t think it’s likely he’ll ever change.”
The judges, after conferring behind closed doors for about 30 minutes, sentenced Rand to 20 to 54 years in the state prison. Rand was given about 21∕2 years of pretrial confinement credit, but still won’t be eligible for parole until 2030, when he is about 71 years old.
If his entire sentence is imposed, he would likely die in prison.
Rand’s lawyer sought a dramatically lesser sentence yesterday, asking for a mix of imposed and suspended time that equated to essentially 31∕2 to 7 years behind bars with the possibility of another lengthy sentence being imposed if he misbehaved in the 10 years after his release.
Attorney Jeffrey Rabinowitz acknowledged Rand’s criminal record and said his client needed to take responsibility. But he said the state also needed to take responsibility for never providing Rand with adequate mental health counseling during his long stays in state facilities.
Rabinowitz called a forensic psychologist to the stand yesterday, who had assessed Rand and testified that he was suffering from a “clinical personality disorder.”
The psychologist, Eric Mart, also found that Rand has above-average intelligence but suffers from heightened anxieties that made him act irrationally under stress. Mart said Rand may react well to certain kinds of therapy or medications, though he couldn’t be sure.
Rabinowitz said Rand hasn’t been offered those opportunities in the past. And he said the sentence proposed by Coull wouldn’t provide them in the future.
“This is a warehousing of someone to essentially throw them in the garbage and cart them away and let’s forget about them for the next 25 years,” he said. “This shouldn’t be one of those things where we do that and forget about it and we’ll all be retired by the time he is eligible for parole.”
But Smukler, in handing down the sentence, said that considering Rand’s record, public protection was paramount.
Coull called that record – some 30 individual charges dating to 1985, not counting the ones he was sentenced for yesterday – “astounding” considering how little time he has spent out of custody.
McNamara, addressing Rand, echoed Coull’s concerns about what he did when the state prison’s parole office, by mistake, offered him a chance at freedom.
“You had the opportunity when you were paroled to help yourself and you didn’t. What you did was commit two robberies, one armed and one not armed,” McNamara said.
Shortly after Rand was released, then-Gov. John Lynch called for a probe into the lapse. A report issued by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office seven months later found that the mistake was caused in part by human error. One employee forgot to check Rand’s record for outstanding cases when compiling documents for the parole board while another granted permission to override a warning that came up on the computer right before Rand’s release, thinking it was a mistake.
The report also placed blame, though, on a lack of written procedures in the parole office and “strongly” suggested more guidelines be developed.
Rand didn’t speak on his own behalf at yesterday’s hearing, talking only to ask for a clarification on how many days of pretrial confinement credit he would be given.
As one of his victims, the woman he robbed at Walmart, asked for a harsh sentence, Rand stared directly at her, barely blinking, showing no reaction.
“It seems that James Rand does not have a conscience and is too selfish to realize the effect an attack like this has or can have on a person,” Jennifer Towne said. “I am thankful James Rand was caught and taken off the streets.”