LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury sentenced a Lufkin man to a life sentence after finding him guilty of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend.
Stephen Dewayne Wallace, 32, was charged, along with five others, with beating and kidnapping his ex-girlfriend last June. He is said to be a high-ranking official in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a notorious prison gang.
The jury also ordered Wallace to pay a $2,500 fine.
"It's more time," Wallace said in a short interview as he was being escorted out of the courthouse. "But it's OK."
After the guilty verdict was announced, Wallace looked back to a tearful row of friends and told them, "It's all right."
Christopher Guffey was convicted of the crime last month and also sentenced to life in prison.
Wallace will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
In a phone interview, the victim thanked the jury for their verdict and said, "I realize it's not an easy task to put a sentence on someone's life." The 33-year-old said, "I didn't deserve any of the things that happened to me that night or any of the other times Mr. Wallace raised his hand to me."
Wallace's attorney, J.R. Smith, said in an interview, "He's made a lot of mistakes in his life...he's always admitted to what he did." Smith talked about the victim's visit to his office months ago and said, "I felt very, very good about the case when you have the alleged victim telling you about the case." However, he claims, "something happened in February that she changed over."
"I'm not trying to justify anybody's actions," said Wallace's friend Jennifer Fondren McMullen in an on-camera interview. "I'm not saying that something wrong wasn't done but, I mean murderers and molesters don't get life in prison so why should somebody that's got a drug problem?"
"He's my family and everybody no matter who it is has a skeleton in their closet, a past they're not proud of and people do change," said another friend of Wallace's Jennifer Doss in an on-camera interview. "Every day God works miracles."
Wallace's attorney told the jury in his closing arguments, "There are a lot of things I know you would rather be doing than passing judgment on another human being."
He reminded them that the government needs to prove the indictment against his client is true beyond a reasonable doubt. He urged them to make their decision based only on the evidence presented during the trial.
"I would be the most naive person in the world if I didn't think a person watched television…" Smith said.
Smith went on to say he has no argument with the testimony law enforcement gave this week because they acted based on allegations they were given.
"We are here for one reason and for one person and that person is the [alleged victim.]" he said.
He said for the jury to "…even think the offense happened, you have to believe the [alleged victim.]"
Smith pointed out once again the woman's inconsistencies in her statements from the office visit with him to her testimony on the stand. Later, the victim said in a phone interview, "The only person I lied to was Mr. Smith." She claims Wallace told her to go to Smith's office and told her what to say.
"For a person to be credible, they need to tell the truth," he said.
Smith referred back to his only witness, Jennifer Fondren McMullen's testimony where she claimed her and the alleged victim had used methamphetamine the night of the alleged incident. It was a statement that differs from the alleged victim's testimony where she claimed she had not used in a few days prior to that June 2009 night.
The defense reminded the jury that Christopher Guffey was found guilty in his trial last month for aggravated kidnapping. Wallace's attorney told the jury he realizes they don't agree with, "…a bunch of crackhead methamphetamine people running out around in the country shooting up dope…"
Smith spent much of his closing arguments discrediting some of the state's witnesses because he said they were not truthful. He also brought up Jennifer Holliday's delay in calling law enforcement the night she said people came to her home looking for the alleged victim.
"I contend that there was no abduction," Smith said.
He also said the alleged victim never said she wanted to leave that night.
Later, Wallace's attorney held the pictures of the victim's injuries, explaining that if she had been treated the way she claimed at the cemetery, her clothes would probably have some dirt on them and he said the bruises depicted in the photos are old and they didn't happen within 10 hours of the supposed incident.
"He's entitled, unconditionally, to your fair and impartial trial, consideration," he said.
"She's already ruined one life, I'd ask you to not let her ruin another life," he concluded.
Prosecuting attorney, Art Bauereiss took the stand for the final speech in this portion of the trial. He said in the court's charge, it doesn't ask the jury if the victim could have got away, then find him innocent.
"If there's no crime here, why is Jennifer Holliday all excited?" he said. "You're not governed by Mr. Smith's opinion, you're governed by evidence," said Bauereiss.
The state focused on the testimony from law enforcement and Lisa Vincent, because they were the witnesses Bauereiss said, Mr. Smith deemed credible. He took the jury back to the high-speed chase and said, "...everybody else hits the woods. Why? Because they're guilty."
"If there's just domestic violence, there's no need to involve five other people in a beating at the cemetery," Baurereiss said.
He closed telling the jury this is a very serious crime. "Stephen Wallace, you are guilty of aggravated kidnapping," he said.
The sentencing phase of the trial began Thursday afternoon with Angelina County Attorney Ed Jones telling the jury about Wallace's criminal history including judgments for possession of marijuana, unlawfully carrying a weapon, DWI, theft, and a terroristic threat. The defense attorney pointed out that the defendant always pled guilty and never had a contested trial.
Later Angelina County Sheriff's Deputy Donna Clayton took the stand to talk about her knowledge of gangs, specifically The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. She said the gang claims, "blood in, blood out," meaning you have to injure or kill to get in and out. Clayton went on to point out in pictures of Wallace's body that he has tattoos typical among Brotherhood gang members. Pictures were shown to the jury where Wallace has his nickname, "Caveman" tattooed on his stomach with a swastika beneath it as well as "Aryan Barbarian" tattooed across his lower back. Clayton said Wallace claims to be a Captain in the gang which gives him authority over other gang members.
The defense attorney questioned Clayton about her past conversations with Wallace. She explained, "We talked on the telephone from time to time about his warrant situation," but she said he was always respectful.
Angelina County Jail Captain Mark Dearing testified next about Wallace's bad behavior while he has been incarcerated. Dearing said, "There was a threat made toward me recently."
The defense called Jessie Johnson, Wallace's uncle, to the stand. He explained how Wallace had been raised by his grandfather and his father, "drank himself to death." Johnson said in Wallace's "…teenage life, he just got with the wrong people…I believe he'd do good if he got a second chance or whatever," but he admitted, "He's had a few chances, I believe."
In closing arguments of the sentencing phase, the defense told the jury, "I'm asking you to consider 25 years in prison as the proper punishment."
In the prosecutions closing statement, Art Bauereiss said Wallace's, "...treatment of women was not unique to the [victim.]" Bauereiss went on to point out there have been repeated attempts by probation to rehabilitate the defendant. Wallace looked on as the state told the jury, "What kind of punishment fits the crime for a man with that record who beats on others?" Bauereiss closed urging the jury to not be afraid to write in a really long sentence. He said, "I wouldn't be afraid to write in life…something that keeps him off our streets for a long, long time."
After the life sentence was handed down, the victim said in a phone interview Wallace's reaction, "...absolutely breaks my heart, you know, because even when I was on the stand, he would look me dead in the eye and he would just smirk." However, she said she can't allow fear to rule her life any longer. She said, "I like to say my days of being scared ended when I got out of the trunk."