A North Little Rock man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to possession of a firearm following a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction.
Tommy Windell Wright, 25, appeared in court earlier this year in a bond hearing that was notable for the difficulty prosecution and defense attorneys had in keeping the defendant's identity separate from that of his identical twin brother, Tony Windell Wright. A North Little Rock police detective testified at the bond hearing that both brothers had from time to time used each other's identities, which had led to mix-ups in court papers regarding which brother was which in some instances.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky admitted to being troubled by Wright's history of lying to and running from police when confronted.
"Looking at what I see in the pre-sentencing report," Rudofsky said, "I am significantly concerned that we are dealing with a defendant ... who seems to be unable to learn the lessons of following the rules."
Rudofsky noted that Wright's first contact with law enforcement occurred at the age of 13, and he worried that the pattern he was seeing indicated the possibility that Wright's infractions were gradually increasing in severity and becoming more violent.
"There seems to be a lot here," he said. "There seems to be a lot of possessing guns, there seems to be a lot of drugs and quite frankly, as I think I understand it, 10 days after he was arrested in this incident he went out and possessed another weapon.
"I don't know how to go about getting through to Mr. Wright that if he doesn't stop he's going to go about having just an awful life in prison," Rudofsky continued.
He said his concern is over offenders who move through the state system piling offenses on top of one another but serving little time before coming to the attention of federal prosecutors.
"Then they come over the federal court and they get hammered with a huge amount of prison time," he said. "Even though they haven't been doing prison time before, and they've kind of been getting these passes they've still been racking up these convictions."
It is those convictions, Rudofsky said, that come into play in the federal court system as an offender's guideline sentence range is directly affected by their past criminal history, regardless of the jurisdiction.
"How do I make sure Mr. Wright doesn't do this again given all of the criminal history he has?" Rudofsky asked.
Wright's attorney, Cara Boyd Connors of Little Rock, said that part of the problem was that Wright did not fully understand the ramifications of his earlier convictions.
"I believe Mr. Wright was ignorant of the law," she said. "Which is not a defense here, but he was ignorant of the law to what precluded him from possessing a firearm."
According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Tommy Wright was a passenger in a car stopped by North Little Rock police Jan. 17 and, when questioned, gave his name as Tony Wright, which police discovered was not true by obtaining a photo of Tony Wright from the Arkansas Crime Information Center. After Tommy Wright admitted his true identity, the affidavit said, police discovered an outstanding arrest warrant from North Little Rock and a Lorcin .380-caliber pistol in the car, which Tommy Wright later admitted was in his possession.
He also admitted his involvement in a shooting Aug. 31 at the North Little Rock home of Gina Lathan, who was identified as the mother of Tommy Wright's girlfriend, Brittany Baltimore, also of North Little Rock.
Baltimore, who attended the sentencing hearing with her and Wright's 2-year-old daughter, was ejected from the courtroom as Rudofsky began to announce the sentence after Baltimore called out "That wasn't his gun!" from the gallery.
As she was led from the courtroom she could be heard saying, "That's not fair. This court is not fair."
In addition to 33 months in prison, Rudofsky sentenced Wright to serve an additional three years on supervised release once he completes his prison sentence.