Legal expert weighs in on James Pleasant's 4-year sentence

3 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Friday, February 07 2020 Feb 7, 2020 Friday, February 07, 2020 3:36:00 PM CST February 07, 2020 in Continuous News
By: Rosemond Crown, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA-  A legal expert is weighing the four year sentence of James Pleasant. KOMU 8 News received hundreds of comments from people unsatisfied that Pleasant had been sentenced to four years in the death of his fiance Alicia Meyer.

Meyer was a quadraplegic who used a wheel chair. Prosecutors say in May 2019, Pleasant drove past flood barricades in Chariton County. When water began to sink the car, he escaped and left Meyer to die.

In the months following the incident, Pleasant pleaded not guilty to the charge. He later accepted a guilty plea deal.

Ben Trachtenberg, who is an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law, says these deals are not uncommon.

"The overwhelming bulk of convictions in Missouri and all the other states come from guilty pleas," Trachtenberg said. "The justice system could not work if defendants went to trial on a regular basis." 

In Pleasant's case, Trachtenberg says the decision to offer him a deal and to sentence him to 4 years depends on whether the courts believed the incident was an accident or intentional. 

"If you imagine someone who is driving drunk and gets in a terrible accident and one of his kids dies-- a prosecutor might say this person committed involuntary manslaughter but I don't need to seek the absolute maximum punishment because he’s already been punished more by what happened than anything the state could possibly do to him."

A Facebook post made by Meyer just two days before her death has raised some concerns about whether her death was an accident.

In the post, Alicia thanks a "kind man" who she says rescued them from flood waters. Just two days later, the same thing happened but this time she dies.

Since there was not trial, Trachtenberg said it is difficult to know whether or how prosecutors considered that Facebook post.

Trachtenberg said an appeal is not typically possible in cases like this. It is up to the prosecutor to determine whether to bring new or different charges against Pleasant. 

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