LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury sentenced a St. Joseph, Missouri man to 10 years in prison for stealing a white Chevrolet pickup and leading law enforcement officers on a three-county chase in August of 2015. During the chase, one of the people in the car threw chain saws at the pursuing officers.
The jury sentenced Richard Paul Kay, 27, to 10 years in prison for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge he pleaded guilty to before the trial started. They also sentenced him to two years in prison for the evading arrest charge. Kay will serve the prison terms concurrently, and Al Charanza, his defense attorney, said his client will be eligible to parole in two-and-a-half years.
Kay will also be required to pay a $5,000 fine.
After deliberating only 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon, the jury found Kay and Dennis Paul Arceneaux, 35, of Shepherd, not guilty of assault of a public servant.
Kay and Arceneaux were charged with aggravated assault of a public servant. At the beginning of the trial, Kay pleaded guilty to evading arrest and unauthorized use of a vehicle. No plea deal was in place for those pleas, so his punishment was decided by the jury.
On August 2, 2015, Kay took off from a traffic stop and lead police on a high speed chase that reached speeds of up to 100 mph across Angelina, Nacogdoches, and Cherokee Counties.
The state took less then 30 minutes to wrap up their case.
Lufkin Officer Devin Trotti started testimony with his role in the chase.
"I joined the pursuit on the west side of the loop," Trotti said.
Trotti said he was involved in the chase from the loop to Alto and then back to Lufkin and up to Nacogdoches.
Trotti said he was with Kay while EMS worked with him.
"He said he wanted to talk, and I said we would save that for later," Trotti said. "He did say he took 31 Vicodin and 13 grams of meth."
Trotti said he could not remember if it appeared that Kay was under the influence of drugs.
James Freeman then talked about his interaction with police.
"The police wanted to know if there was any property missing from that location [Lazy Acres Mobile Home Park]," Freeman said. "Upon arriving at the location I noticed some things missing. There were wheels missing, a pressure washer was missing. That's what I noticed right off the bat."
Freeman said he noticed inside a shed there were two chain saws missing.
The state then rested.
In her closing statement, prosecutor Deborah Moore said the facts of the case are not disputable. Moore argued that the use of the chainsaws was intentional.
Moore said the two never voluntarily stopped and they were forced to stop by state troopers. Moore said the jury needs to find the two men guilty.
John Peralta, Arceneaux's defense attorney, argued there was no prior threat by the defendants when the chain saws were thrown. Peralta said these were attempted assaults and not actual assaults.
"He could have been charged that way," Peralta said. "I would be up here with a whole other sets of issues, but they chose to come up here with this and there is no evidence that a threat was made."
Peralta told the jury they could have possibly been trying to throw out stolen property they had in the truck.
"That is reasonable instead of trying to harm Sgt. Willmon," Peralta said.
Peralta said the state has to prove which one threw out the chainsaws and you do not know.
"This case should not have been brought, and it is way over charged," Peralta said.
In his closing statement Al Charanza, Kay's defense attorney, said the case is simple.
"There's no evidence," Charanza said. "It's that simple. There is no evidence."
Charanza said he is not disputing the evading arrest charge because Kay said he was guilty.
"This was a bad chase, and ladies and gentlemen you are going to have to go back and find his punishment," Charanza said.
Charanza said they did not charge an attempted assault, but the DA office did not charge that, because they said they knowingly or intentionally did it. Charanza said that is not the case.
If the intended for those chainsaws to be used to threaten the officers, then why wasn't the back pack or jack and tools thrown out," Charanza said. "If they meant to hurt the officer they would have thrown it all. No, they were trying to get rid of stolen items. At this point Mr. Kay realized they needed to get rid of the stuff."
Charanza said the problem of overcharging is important because if you do then you open the door to have people charged with assault if they throw out a can and it hits an officers vehicle.
Moore cam back an argued that if they hadn't intended to hurt Willmon with the chainsaws then they would have thrown them out to the side of the road or a pasture they drove into near Alto.
Moore then brought up a bomb and said if a bomb was used but defused before it went off, the threat was still there and the chainsaws are the same.
"The threat was real," Moore said. "Do not get sidetracked by the rabbit holes the defense sends you down. The threat is real."
At 2:33 p.m., the case was given to the jury for deliberation.