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New law allows Healdsburg man who fled police to avoid longer ‘third strike’

By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Lance Janssen hasn’t led a charmed existence.

The Healdsburg man has a long criminal rap sheet, dating back to the late 1980s, and has spent much of his adulthood in jail and prison.

It looked like he was going away for life when he committed his third “strike” offense: Fleeing police last year through Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa with a loaded handgun under the seat of his motorcycle.

But fate finally smiled on the 45-year-old ex-con.

With the Nov. 6 passage of Proposition 36, which modified the three-strikes law to ease prison crowding, Janssen was able to avoid a recommended 50-years-to-life prison term and instead was sentenced to just seven years.

His relief was evident as he spoke in court Thursday morning.

“I don’t want to be in trouble again,” said Janssen, who was seriously injured when he crashed. “I’m very lucky.”

Janssen is among the first in Sonoma County to be sentenced under the new policy approved by 69 percent of voters statewide and 76 percent in the county.

It changed the language of the landmark 1994 three-strikes law to require a third felony conviction be serious or violent instead of just any felony.

Now, criminals no longer can be sent away forever for relatively minor third offenses involving theft, simple drug offenses or some types of fraud.

Those who commit serious crimes, such as murder, child molestation or residential burglary, still face a minimum of 25 years to life.

“It’s more in tune with what the people of California want,” said interim Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi. “And it’s beyond being fiscally savvy. It’s just the right thing to do.”

In fact, relatively few three-strikers in liberal Sonoma County have been sentenced to life terms for minor offenses. There’s no one languishing for stealing a loaf of bread or getting caught with a joint.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said any lifers who believe they fall under the new guidelines can petition to be resentenced. She did not know how many might do so.

She wouldn’t say how she voted on Proposition 36, but noted the state prosecutors association opposed it.

“The change in law doesn’t really impact the way we do business,” Ravitch said. “Only in an extraordinary situation would we charge a three-strikes case where the commitment offense is non-serious or nonviolent.”

Janssen’s criminal history is extensive and includes domestic violence, theft, assault and drug offenses. He earned his first strike for threatening a girlfriend with a pellet gun when she wouldn’t get off the phone. His second came when he beat another man in a bar fight.

Janssen was sentenced to prison in both cases.

“I’ve done a lot,” he conceded in court.

His most recent felony stemmed from a chase with officers in the wee hours of June 28, 2011. He refused to pull over for a traffic violation and instead led officers along Bicentennial Way to Lake Park Drive, where he crashed his motorcycle on a curve.

Police found him in possession of a loaded gun.

He’s been in jail since. Janssen was facing a life sentence earlier this year when Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite agreed to postpone the matter until after the election.

His lawyer, Richard Scott, argued that although he was armed, he was not intending to use the gun, so his third felony was nonviolent.

Prosecutors agreed with the interpretation but expressed concern that someone with his history could be a danger if released.

“But for Prop. 36, he would be sentenced to life,” prosecutor Traci Carrillo told the judge.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.





13 Responses to “New law allows Healdsburg man who fled police to avoid longer ‘third strike’”

  1. pete says:

    so snarky,
    what is your point, criminal cops are in jail and being investigated, sounds like they are in trouble.
    This story is about a convicted felon, evading police, with a loaded hand gun, this guy needs to be in jail for a long time.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Anthony Angry says:

    Some of these comments are hilarious! He’s going to prison. Something is being done! Just because they aren’t executing him on the side of the road doesn’t mean we’re doing nothing. Sheesh, the way some people go on about this, you’d think the guy is being released right now and having his gun returned to him. Got reality? He’s going inside.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. Snarky says:

    GrapeVines:

    You demonstrate an inability to understand the concept of honesty.

    Honesty is not demonstrated by a badge. The badge is merely the job category.

    One can hate dishonest, criminal cops simply because one is honest. :) Your attempt to accuse those who hate criminal cops of having a criminal background is proof you do not understand the concept of honesty.

    I might add, your attempt to categorize bakers, etc, in the same league as a criminal cop falls flat.

    Street criminals don’t have the government protecting them as criminal cops do nor do street criminals have the protection of the public safety unions.

    Two cops are being investigated right now (LA Times, online, yesterday) after having been caught ON VIDEO using an electric shock weapon upon a handcuffed woman and then LAUGHING at her and the pain they inflicted upon her.

    Let me ensure you understood that. Two sadistic cops have been caught on VIDEO laughing after they inflicted pain upon a handcuffed woman.

    The police badge, clearly, is worn by dangerous people who need to be watched closely.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  4. Joe Right says:

    felon armed in public ‘didn’t intend to use his gun” so it’s sort of OK …….sort of makes sense the non-felons have guns in public-in case they don’t intend to need them.
    should be sort of OK right?

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  5. Grapevines says:

    Criminal cops/bakers/postmen/ditch-diggers/judges/bankers/gas station attendants/fishermen/nail salon operators/etc/etc/etc. Damn Snarky, criminal is criminal.

    Does not matter where they come from, criminal is criminal and they should get spanked for it. Did you get potty-trained at too early an age by a law enforcement person who went bad?

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  6. Steve Moonlight says:

    All have valid points, but I think we need to consider a broader perspective. Crime is a symptom, not the problem. And while I agree we need to address the problem of what to do with criminals, we must also put some effort into what causes criminal behavior.
    We have a society which chooses to promote logic and science while devaluing the fundamental foundation which built our great country, the concept of God and a moral structure. I’m not a religious zealot, but somehow we must find a way of promoting and incorporating conscience back into our society.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Snarky says:

    Joe Right:

    Your description of “felon, loaded firearm, in public” describes the criminal cops I’ve posted about… don’t you think?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  8. Snarky says:

    As I said, Grapevines, your logic is defective because you howl about street criminals yet keep silent about criminal cops. :)

    You know. Like the criminal cop who was just convicted of demanding sex and groping female motorists in Southern California.

    Or, like the criminal cop who just got caught days ago robbing a bank in San Francisco.

    Grapevines never says a word specific to criminal cops. :)

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  9. The Hammer says:

    “criminals no longer can be sent away forever” What the hell are we supposed to do with them? Nothing? What the hell has happen to us!

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  10. Joe Right says:

    Felon, in possession of a loaded firearm, in public. Sort of the reason three strikes went on the books.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  11. Grapevines says:

    Snarky, ya do the wrong, ya get the spanking. And you can bring up examples of cops gone bad and lets face it, there are bad apples in every barrel.

    However for the most part, I’d say that percentage wise, there are less bad apples in law enforcement than other professions.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  12. Snarky says:

    Grapevines:

    Did you see this mornings news regarding criminals?

    First, the San Francisco Chronicle (online) reports that a Bay Area cop has been arrested for defrauding an elderly woman of her assets and placing those assets in HIS name.

    Secondly, the former Sheriff of Orange County, CA, wants out of Federal prison where he has been sentenced for jury tampering and attempting to get another police commander to lie to protect him.
    See the LA Times (online).

    I’m sure that you, Grapevines, believe that criminal cops deserve to be treated exactly like the criminals they are, correct?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  13. Grapevines says:

    So what happens when he gets picked up a 4th or 5th time for “nonviolent” felonies? Because even though he was sentenced to 7 years, he’ll be out in much less than that. And because he’s only 45 now, he’ll be in his late 40′s with lots of time for a 4th and 5th offense.

    And the question I want to ask his lawyer is if he was not intending to use the loaded gun he had in his possession, what was he doing with it? He wasn’t carrying it because he goes into area’s where snake or bear attacks are prevalent does he??

    The more we coddle these types of people, the more it will come back to bite us. Throw him into a tent city like Sheriff Joe Arpaio runs in Arizona and let him eat baloney sandwiches and do his time.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

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