The attorney for a man who broke into the house of Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis said Thursday she believes her client would have gotten a lighter sentence than eight years if the homeowner wasn’t a public figure.
Davis was sleeping at her Fort Worth home in April 2013 when an intruder entered and stole her car. Donnell Dickerson pleaded guilty to those charges but asked for a jury to decide his sentence. Davis testified during a short sentencing trial in January, three months after launching her campaign.
The break-in hadn’t been publicly known until reported by Dallas television station KXAS. Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas called it a private matter.
Fort Worth attorney Mamie Johnson told The Associated Press that Donnell Dickerson had no idea last spring whose home he was breaking into, but that ultimately who the owner was affected how much time her client will serve.
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“When it was all said and done, he ended up with an extra year or two because it’s a public official,” Johnson said. “Not because it was Wendy Davis, but because it was a public official.”
Johnson said she’s a Democrat and likes Davis but worked for the best outcome for her client. Dickerson had a past criminal record that jurors were allowed to consider, she said, and though she couldn’t recall his previous arrests she said none were felonies. Petkanas said Davis was grateful to police but referred questions about Dickerson’s sentence to prosecutors.
“The prosecution of this matter is now complete and she urges everyone to take every precaution to ensure their families are safe,” Petkanas said in a statement.
Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon said his office handled the case like any other burglary. He said Johnson offered prosecutors a five-year sentence but refused to negotiate further after they counter-offered a deal for six years.
“Obviously, the jury believed the defendant’s conduct warranted more time in prison. The defendant received a fair trial and the victim was satisfied with the outcome,” Shannon said in a statement.
According to a Fort Worth police report obtained by KXAS, Davis’ then-boyfriend Will Wynn, a former Austin mayor, told police he was doing yard work when he went inside and was confronted by an intruder. Wynn said that Dickerson told him “I must be in the wrong house” before going to the garage, where he got in Davis’ car and drove off.
Johnson said Dickerson ended up circling back around to the house and was stopped by police.
Johnson said Davis’ testimony lasted 15 minutes and that she answered only questions that filled in details about the break-in.
Despite being sentenced to eight years, Dickerson could be eligible for parole much sooner, Johnson said. She described her client as being satisfied with the sentence even though she believes it could have been shorter.
“My goal was to get nobody on that jury who was a Wendy Davis lover,” Johnson said, “I felt like it could harm him in the long run.”