Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

June 11, 2013

Lengthy prison terms are affirmed

99-year sentence sticks for man with 12 DWI offenses

ATHENS — A pair of hefty sentences was affirmed last week by two Texas Courts of Appeals.  The convictions of George Wayne Smith and Samuel DeWayne Colbert, both of Henderson County, were affirmed after both appealed their convictions. 

The 6th Court of Appeals affirmed the 99-year sentence of George Wayne Smith after he was convicted of his 12th DWI-related offense. A Henderson County jury sentenced Smith, 46, of Log Cabin, to the long prison term for an Aug. 26, 2011 early morning DWI on Farm-to-Market 3054 in Log Cabin.  Judge Mark Calhoon of the 3rd Judicial District Court presided over the trial.

The jury of nine women and three men found Smith guilty after 1-1/2 days of testimony presented by District Attorney Scott McKee and Assistant District Attorney Bridget Bateman.     

In his closing arguments to the jury, McKee highlighted Smith’s extensive history of DWI convictions before asking them to send him to the penitentiary.  

In his appeal, Smith claimed that one of the DWI-related convictions used to raise his DWI to a felony was from Oklahoma and should not have been able to be used to enhance his charges. 

Smith’s attorney raised the same issue at trial.  Judge Calhoon did not agree and allowed evidence of the Oklahoma conviction.

Texas law provides increased penalties for repeat DWI offenders.  A person’s first and second DWIs are misdemeanors with the maximum sentence of one year in county jail. A person convicted of three or more DWIs faces felony charges.

A person with multiple felonies can receive up to a life sentence if convicted of another felony. In his appellate brief, McKee argued that although Oklahoma DWI law is slightly different, the conviction was appropriately used under Texas law. 

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals agreed with McKee and the ruling of Judge Mark Calhoon in affirming the conviction. Smith’s attorney has filed a motion for rehearing in the case. 

The 12th Court of Appeals affirmed the 60-year sentence of Samuel Dwayne Colbert, 27, of Athens.  Colbert was first arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine in June of 2011 during a traffic stop by Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies on U.S. Highway 175, west of Athens.  Colbert entered a plea of guilty to the First Degree Felony of Possession of a Controlled Substance on Aug. 23, 2011.  Sentencing was set for Oct. 13, 2011. 

However, Colbert failed to appear for the sentencing and his previous $100,000 bond was found to be insufficient and raised to $1,000,000.

During sentencing, Investigator David Faught of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office testified regarding the 2-1/2-week search for Colbert which ended in his arrest. 

Faught testified that when Colbert was arrested, he was found asleep with a knife on his waist and a TECH-9 (semi-automatic firearm) under the bed he was sleeping on. That TECH-9 turned out to link Colbert to a burglary of 30 firearms that took place while he was running from law enforcement with the $1 million bond.

Assistant DA Justin Weiner, who prosecuted the case, in closing arguments asked visiting Judge Harold Entz to sentence Colbert to a lengthy penitentiary sentence and in doing so he argued: “Samuel Colbert is a drug dealer that was continuously poisoning our community. As if that wasn’t enough, when he didn’t show up for court, he was running from the law enforcement as a fugitive with a $1,000,000 bond and committing burglaries.”

In his Appeal, Colbert argued that his lawyer was ineffective in representing him. The 12th Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the 60-year sentence. Weiner also prepared the appellate brief.

McKee indicated that almost every conviction from a jury trial results in an appeal state-wide. 

“This office puts a tremendous amount of work into every case we try,” said McKee.  “However, after conviction is when a great deal of work on the case begins.” 

McKee indicated that unlike many offices in the state, his office does not have a dedicated appellate attorney. 

“The county simply doesn’t have the resources to hire one.  Therefore, we do our own research, write our own briefs and argue them in the Courts of Appeals when necessary,” he said. 

 The DA also indicated that since assuming office in 2009, they have never had a conviction overturned. McKee credits that success to the county’s experienced and well-qualified judges on the bench who are very rarely overturned.

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