About two months ago, Christopher G. Nichols, age 28, was convicted by a jury of multiple counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearms, Theft of Firearms, Burglary, Theft of Motor Vehicle and Trafficking in Stolen Property. The charges arose out of the burglary of a Colville area home in June of 2011. During that theft, about 21 firearms were taken as well as jewelry, a car and other personal property. The office had charged him with 18 counts related to the guns. The sentencing occurred on Tuesday, July 31.
This sentencing was significantly affected by two facts. First, the range of punishment Mr. Nichols was exposed to was determined by the fact that he was a convicted felon and had an extensive criminal record. Second, the sentence was controlled by a law that was passed in 1995 called the Hard Time for Armed Crime Act. This law requires the court to impose consecutive sentences on convicted felons who steal and possess firearms. It is a harsh law which was passed after the Three Strike laws of the 1980s, and was meant to strike hard at violent crimes by requiring severe punishment for felons who steal firearms and put illegal guns in circulation.
Because of the number and the type of charges he was convicted of and his prior offender score, (criminal history) the law required the judge to sentence him to consecutive sentences. He was sentenced to 125 years.
People have wondered about the length of this sentence as compared to the 26 year sentence that Eric Booth received for the murder of Mr. Fiest. The difference can be explained by the differences between the two men.
Mr. Booth had no record of any kind, and therefore the Hard Time for Armed Crime act did not apply. He had also confessed freely and told Law Enforcement the truth about what had happened shortly after his arrest.
The office made many attempts to resolve this case. Even during the trial, deputy prosecutor Lech Radzimski extended offers which would have allowed Mr. Nichols to plead guilty to lesser charges for much less punishment. All these attempts to negotiate a resolution were refused. His lawyer, Bevin Maxey of Spokane, said his client demanded that either the charges be dismissed entirely or that a jury decide. We were not willing to dismiss the charges. The jury, after hearing the evidence decided there was proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Nichols has given notice of the appeal.