No more prison for one-time hostage taker - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

No more prison for one-time hostage taker

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Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2009 4:53 pm | Updated: 12:38 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday ended the legal battles for a 22-year-old man who held a class hostage at gunpoint in 2000.

The court sided against prosecutors and decided that two Maricopa County Superior Court judges were correct in lowering Sean Botkin's level of probation supervision for the 2000 hostage case after he had committed a felony in 2004.

At stake for Botkin were possibly decades behind bars even though he had completed his probation for the 2000 case last year and served eight months in prison for the 2004 case.

"It's sort of inconceivable from a public interest standpoint why anyone would send him back to prison," said attorney Timothy Eckstein. "At the end of the day, this was about the state's effort to send him back to prison."

Botkin took his class hostage at Pioneer Elementary School in Peoria on Oct. 24, 2000, just 18 months after the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Botkin's incident ended peacefully.

Botkin got a phalanx of public support rallying around the call for him to receive mental-health care rather than significant punishment.

He was sentenced to six months in jail in 2001 and placed on seven years of intensive probation, which is a highly structured and closely supervised form of probation.

Botkin pleaded guilty in September 2004 to selling four prescription pills to a classmate at Boulder Canyon High School in Mesa. Judge Dennis Dairman sentenced Botkin to eight months in prison for the drug offense and rejected the argument of prosecutors that he was required to send Botkin to prison for violating probation in the hostage case by committing the subsequent felony.

The court of appeals sided with prosecutors in 2006 and sent the case back to Superior Court, where a new judge inherited the case and allowed him to reduce his probation supervision level. That, in turn, eliminated the mandatory prison sentence that the more restrictive probation would have brought.

Justice Andrew Hurwitz, writing for the Supreme Court, said the Superior Court did not reduce the level of the probation simply to avoid a mandatory prison sentence, "but rather in recognition of Botkin's significant progress during the substantial period since his release from prison."

Eckstein said Botkin has come a long way since the troubled teenager took his father's gun and held the class hostage.

He attends Mesa Community College, completed probation successfully, paid all of his fines and stayed out of trouble.

"Not the slightest hiccup," Eckstein said.

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