- Special Sections
Troy Ray Jennings was sentenced to eight years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Wednesday morning, January 9, in the 32nd Judicial District Court.
A day prior to his sentencing, a seven-woman, five-man jury found Jennings guilty of failure to comply as a sex offender on Tuesday, January 8.
According to court documents, Jennings failed to report his change of employment, which is required for registration with local law enforcement, due to a reportable conviction of aggravated sexual assault. The offense was reported as occurring on May 10, 2011.
With jury selection taking place and being finalized on Tuesday morning, the state presented two witnesses--Officer Armando Renteria with the SPD (Sweetwater Police Department) and Eric Stewart, the defendant's supervisor--and rested their case around 3 p.m.
Thereafter, only two witnesses took the stand: the defendant's fiancee Amy Carroll and Jennings himself.
In his testimony, Jennings stated that he registered in 2010 and 2011. The requirement had to be met before his birthday each year, in which a letter was given to him by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He told the state that he was aware that he was on trial for not officially reporting a new job at Liberty Tire, but said that he told the officer of the change when he was being investigated on another offense of theft.
He said he had to contact his new boss in order to get time off to meet with Officer Renteria, but was also employed at Sweetwater Cattle Auction as a temporary yard hand and also took up other work on the side.
When he met with Office Renteria for the other issue unrelated to the requirements, Jennings said that he told the officer of the job change in the instance that he needed to be contacted.
Some of Jennings' past offenses--which included some time in prison--and arrests were brought up by the state during their questioning of him. Several of the documents were presented as evidence by the state and published to the jury as well.
One of the documents was a warning of Jennings' right to remain silent before speaking to Officer Renteria. But the continual question by the state was, if the defendant said he spoke to the officer on April 25, then how could he have told law enforcement of the job change that occurred on May 3.
The defense had Jennings on the stand for a brief moment, asking him when he talked with Officer Renteria. Jennings noted that he was in contact with the officer twice--once in person and once on the telephone.
Shortly after 4 p.m., the defense rested their case. SPD Officer Renteria was the sole rebuttal witness called to the stand before the state closed their case ten minutes later.
Following a brief recess and the reading of the charge by presiding judge Glen Harrison, both sides presented their closing arguments.
Offering the closing argument for the state was Assistant District Attorney Barrett Thomas, who noted Jennings failed to register in compliance as a sex offender, as noted in the testimony of Officer Renteria. Previous documents cite status changes, but not the one in question.
Various reasons were noted to prove the state's case, including Jennings' attempt to explain his reasoning, which was a lie. The case was not about the character of the defendant, but whether he violated the status requirements.
Defense attorney Jeff Allen gave his closing argument, noting that his client registered in 2010 and 2011 and thought he met his requirements. While earlier employed with Sweetwater Cattle Auction, he took on a new job with Liberty Tire.
Jennings told the officer of the change while being investigated on another incident, claiming he stated the job change on two occasions. His supervisor and his fiancee also remembered Jennings passing along the information.
The defendant never hid from the state, as documents presented into evidence pointed out where Jennings was. No evidence showed Jennings' failure of compliance, and Allen's client did in fact fulfill his requirements.
In the final argument, ADA Thomas stated that for the health of the community, changes of this magnitude must be reported. Jennings was reckless in his reporting, as he stated of being unsure of meeting the requirements.
While Stewart said that Jennings spoke with Officer Renteria on April 25, 2011, Jennings' employment with Liberty Tire began on May 3 of the same year according to a representative with the company. Thus, the state proved that Jennings did not meet the requirements.
Around 5 p.m., the jury began their deliberations, and in less than 20 minutes the guilty verdict was reached and read in the courtroom. The defendant opted for the court to decide sentencing, which took place on Wednesday morning, January 9.
The state presented no witnesses, only six documents of conviction and judgement on past offenses committed by Jennings. The defense, however, called Jennings and Stewart back to the stand.
Jennings testified that two plea offers were presented by the state, but he rejected them. He reiterated that he believed he was in compliance of registration in 2011 as he told local law enforcement of his job at the Sweetwater Cattle Auction.
There was no change in job prior to obtaining work at Liberty Tire, but seven months earlier in September 2010 he went over his information with Officer Renteria. While he stated to telling the officer, Jennings noted that he accepted the jury's verdict.
He said he never intended to fail to register or hide his whereabouts, and would have paid more attention in this process. He also accepted responsibility for his past offenses.
Jennings held employment before the trial, and said that he has stayed clean from drugs and strives to provide for his fiancee as he has plans to marry her. Had he been more conscientious, he said, this court appearance would never have happened.
He hoped to be given one more chance to keep working and make a difference in his life in order to do the right thing.
When questioned by the state, they disputed Jennings' statements on how he had changed his life after obtaining a job. While he was no longer using drugs, he had been charged with an offense dealing with alcohol.
Additionally, Jennings had been convicted twice on theft charges and once for an accident. He had been on probation twice and pled true to revoking probation.
The defense briefly questioned Stewart, who testified that if Jennings was given probation, he would still be employed; the state had no questions for Stewart.
In closing arguments, ADA Thomas said that there were reasons in place as to why Jennings had to register. Not only is the community concerned about his whereabouts as a violent sex offender for the sake of security, but his victims also have an interest.
Jennings has been on probation twice and served two prison sentences, but no change was evident in his life. With multiple arrests after his time in prison, the defendant would not be a good candidate for probation but needed a long prison term.
Defense attorney Allen stressed that his client was never hiding from the state and conceded that he was not conscientious in his registration. Though he thought he had met the requirements, Jennings had in fact become lax in his compliance.
While he has a poor track record, Jennings is working to overcome those obstacles through employment and a relationship that is leading to marriage. The defense hoped that going to the court for sentencing would lead to a light sentence like probation as an incentive to not mess up again and to be a productive member of society.
The final argument from the state pointed out the conflict presented by the defense: while they accepted the verdict, they still held to the lie of Jennings actually registering. By failing to register, the state had to contact Jennings to learn where he was, which shouldn't have taken place.
As he continues to violate the law, the state asked for a maximum punishment of ten years sentence.
In his ruling, Judge Glen Harrison simply stated that a violation is indeed a violation. Since the early 90s, Jennings has been in court over eleven times, thus showing a pattern of crime. Along with his eight years confinement in the TDCJ, Jennings will have to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs, as well as reimburse the county for attorney's fees.