Monday, 15 July 2024

STATE: Stockton man pleads guilty to murdering CHP officer

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California Highway Patrol Officer Earl Scott was shot and killed during a traffic stop in February 2006 in Modesto, Calif. After four and a half years the man who shot and killed Scott was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, August 2, 2010. Photo courtesy of the California Highway Patrol.
 

 

 

 

MODESTO, Calif. – A Stockton man has pleaded guilty to the 2006 murder of a California Highway Patrol officer.


Columbus Allen, 34, entered the guilty plea to the shooting death of CHP Officer Earl Scott on Monday, according to Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager.


Fladager said Allen pleaded guilty to murder with use of a gun and admitted the special circumstances of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties, and murder to avoid arrest.


Allen also admitted that the murder was intentional and perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a vehicle at another person outside the vehicle with intent to inflict death, and he additionally pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and admitted having served a prior prison term, according to Fladager.


On Feb. 17, 2006, Scott pulled Allen over for a traffic violation on Highway 99 just outside of Modesto. It was during the traffic stop that Allen fatally shot Scott.


CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow remembered Scott as an exceptional officer and a consummate professional who worked tirelessly to make the highways of California safer. He thanked the law enforcement agencies who brought the case together.


Farrow said justice finally had been served.


“While a guilty plea can never erase the pain, sorrow and devastating loss felt by Earl’s family and friends, including his CHP family, may the finality of a plea and a life sentence in this case at least bring some measure of relief that this part of the process is over,” Farrow said.


The case had faced four years of delays but it had been scheduled to begin last week in Sacramento County where it had been moved as a result of a change of venue, Fladager reported.


The Fifth District Court of Appeals imposed a stay in the proceedings on July 26 in order to consider a writ filed by the defense to challenge the Sacramento judge who was assigned the trial. Fladager said if Allen had been convicted of the charges, a penalty phase would have followed the trial during which the jury would have been asked whether to recommend imposition of the death penalty.


Allen’s lawyers approached Fladager's office early last week indicating that Allen would be willing to plead guilty to all charges – and waive the right to appeal – for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in lieu of prosecutors continuing to seek the death penalty.


After consulting with family members and friends of Scott and learning of their support for the resolution, Fladager's office agreed to accept the plea offer by the defense.


“While there may never be such a thing as ‘closure’ for the friends and family of Officer Scott, there will at least be finality to the criminal case,” Fladager said. “There will be no decades-long appeal process for them to endure and constantly worry about the possibility of reversal.”


After the defendant entered a guilty plea, Scott's family and friends had the opportunity to give victim impact statements. Among those addressing the court were Officer Robert Hart of the Modesto Police Department and CHP Officer Brandon Moore.


Judge Scott Steffen sentenced Columbus Allen to life in prison without the possibility of parole in addition to three years for the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and having served a prior prison term, Fladager reported.


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