LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Jeff Awtrey - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County District Judge sentenced a Lufkin man to life in prison for his role in an aggravated kidnapping.
After 35 minutes of deliberation, an Angelina County jury found him guilty of aggravated kidnapping.
He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Christopher Guffey was charged with five others with forcing a woman into a trunk and holding her against her will for nearly 24 hours.
After Judge Barry Bryan announced the sentencing, Guffey's mother, Rhonda Sanangelo, immediately began loudly crying. Sheriff's deputies escorted her out of the courtroom to retain control of the room.
"It's been a long process, and it's still not over, but we're getting there," the victim said in an interview after the verdict was read.
KTRE has chosen not to name the victim to protect her identity.
"I wanted to express my sorrow for Christopher Guffey's family ... they're good people," she said.
"I knew he had a pretty rough past so I was hopeful that he would hit him with a long sentence," prosecuting attorney Art Bauereiss said.
On the stand, Guffey discussed how he joined the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas because, "there were certain qualities of the Aryan brotherhood that I respected." When he was asked about the victim he said they did get along, but the incident that night had been dramatized.
He said, "there's no doubt things were done. How I feel about it, is I can't even, it's crazy, I don't agree with a lot of things."
While leaving the courtroom, Guffey flashed a hand signal to a photographer and said, "What's up, man?"
"He's a different breed of cat and I don't know exactly what to make of all that," Bauereiss said. "I certainly can't imagine being in his shoes, but I would think someone would adopt a more somber demeanor if facing the kind of consequences he was looking at."
The third day of the trial began Bryan charging the jury and closing arguments for the defense and prosecuting attorneys.
The state argued the victim was taken with the intent to inflict bodily injury and to terrorize her. Prosecuting attorney Art Bauereiss told the jury, "When you're locked in a trunk, when you're taken to a cemetery for a beating...you've been restrained...you've been deprived of your liberty." He went on to point out that when the incident was six individuals against one, the victim was restrained.
Defense attorney Al Charanza wanted the jury to realize the majority of the trial involved talk of Stephen Wallace and Rachel Tutt's involvement in the alleged incident. Charanza said, "The state is trying to convict Christopher Guffey because of what Stevie Wallace and Rachel Tutt did."
Charanza went on to tell the jury Guffey didn't want this to happen to the victim and that he was just following orders from Wallace because of his rank in the Aryan Brotherhood. The defense claimed the whole group, including the victim was high on methamphetamine. Charanza admitted, although this was not a defense, it did explain a lot about the alleged incident. He went on to argue that if it were not for Guffey pleading with Wallace, the victim may not have survived. He told the jury, "He [Guffey] did not intentionally or knowingly commit aggravated kidnapping. He was following through with an order."
"Don't find him guilty only because he's a member off the Aryan Brotherhood," Charanza said.
The state's prosecuting attorney in his rebuttal to the jury emphasized the Aryan Brotherhood has no authority over the courtroom and "Every person is responsible for what he or she does. You don't duck and run for cover because of the Aryan Brotherhood." Baureiss walked the jury back through the night of the alleged incident citing Guffey's involvement in the act. He told the jury Guffey chose not to stop Wallace that night.
Guffey was the first to go to trial in the case. Stephen Wallace, Stephanie Powell, Gary Allen, Rachel Tutt and Ashely McLemore are also charged with aggravated kidnapping.