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Sex offender's 3-year prison term for failing to register not excessive, appeals court finds

7-3-2014 Louisiana:

A state appeals court has upheld the three-year prison sentence that a Jefferson Parish judge gave a Port Sulphur man for failing to complete his sex offender registration. Carlo Muth, 39, said the punishment is excessive, because he tried to register when he moved to Jefferson Parish but could not afford the $628.75 fee that the Sheriff's Office charged him.

Muth was given the sentence in September by Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court. A jury had convicted Muth for failing to register as a sex offender when he moved to Jefferson in 2012.

He was required to register because of his 2005 guilty plea in Plaquemines Parish's 25th Judicial District Court to to molestation of a juvenile. He admitted having sex with a 14-year-old girl, when he was 29.

When he moved to Jefferson, he notified the Sheriff's Office and registered as a sex offender. He was given 21 days to notify the community, a requirement of state law. But he told the Sheriff's Office he could not afford the community notification fee, court records show. Lt. Luis Munguia, in charge of the sex offender registry, gave him an extension through January 2013. Muth still did not register, leading Munguia to seek his arrest.

Muth moved back to Plaquemines in March 2013 and was trying to register as a sex offender there when he was arrested on the Munguia's warrant. Police say he admitted he had been paid at his job but that he still made no attempt to pay the Jefferson fee.

After Muth was convicted, Faulkner sentenced him to three years in prison with no benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence. His trial attorney's argument that the sentence was excessive was unheeded.

Muth appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in Gretna. A three-judge panel sided with Faulkner in finding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in handing down the punishment.

The punishment range for failing to register is two years to 10 years in prison, the appellate court noted. Another Jefferson Parish judge had previously handed down a five-year sentence in an unrelated case, the appellate court found.

"In the instant case, although (Muth) has only one prior felony conviction and his instant conviction appears to stem from financial difficulty, we find that these mitigating factors are reflected in his sentence that is less than midrange and illegally lenient," Judge Jude Gravois wrote in the June 24 opinion, for Susan Chehardy and Robert Murphy.

"Accordingly, we concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing (Muth) to three years imprisonment at hard labor without benefits. ..Source.. by

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