Court bars move for extra-long sentences in transient stomping death

Associated Press/September 8, 2004

Tacoma, Wash. -- A judge has rejected a request to convene a jury so prosecutors can seek extra-long sentences for two young white supremacists who pleaded guilty in the stomping death of a transient.

Pierce County prosecutors said they would ask the state Supreme Court to consider the matter before Scotty James Butters, 21, and David Nikos Pillatos, 20, are sentenced on Oct. 1 for first-degree murder in the death of Randall Townsend, 42.

Prosecutors said they always intended to seek sentences that would keep Butters and Pillatos, who initially were charged with aggravated first-degree murder, in prison for practically the rest of their lives.

Both accepted a plea agreement and testified against a third defendant, Kurtis William Monschke, 20, of Tacoma, who was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term without parole.

Then, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a sentence longer than the standard range could not be ordered by a judge without action by a jury, meaning Butters and Pillatos could face no more than 31 years in prison.

Deputy prosecutors Gerald Costello and Greg Geer asked that a jury be convened so they could seek longer terms, but that move was rejected Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Lisa R. Worswick.

"The state is requesting I create a sentencing procedure which is not in the statute and I don't believe the Legislature ever contemplated," Worswick said. "I don't think I have the authority to do this."

Worswick also refused to dismiss the guilty pleas, saying Butters and Pillatos fulfilled their part of the deal by testifying against Monschke, who was described as the leader though not the principal attacker.

The pair admitted beating and stomping Townsend, mentally ill and homeless, and throwing a boulder onto his face as he lay beneath a bridge.

"We think these guys did more than Monschke did," Costello said. "All along we expected to seek an exceptional sentence. The (U.S. Supreme Court ruling) for these defendants was like winning the Lotto."

Pillatos' girlfriend, Tristain Lynn Frye, 23, also was charged initially with aggravated murder but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison term of less than 14 years.

Investigators said the killing was intended to be a white supremacist gang initiation for Frye and decided to attack Townsend, although he was white, because the group could not find someone of color to attack and considered him inferior and a parasite to society.

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