Prosecutors: Sentences Could Have Been StifferSHEILA ALLEE , Associated Press
Jul. 19, 1986 5:01 AM ET
KERRVILLE, TEXAS KERRVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Prosecutors say they had hoped for tougher sentences for three men accused in a kidnapping and slavery scheme at a Hill Country ranch than the seven years probation to 15 years in prison they were given.
The sentences were assessed Friday by the same jury that found the three guilty Wednesday of organized crime in a conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping and murder.
The state had pushed for life in prison for Walter Wesley Ellebracht Jr., 33, but had asked for unspecified but strict prison terms for his father Walter Wesley Ellebracht Sr., 54; and former ranch hand Carlton Robert Caldwell, 21.
Members of the jury, after deliberating more than six hours, returned to the courtroom Friday evening and ordered a 15-year sentence for the younger Ellebracht.
They ordered seven years probation for the elder Ellebracht and 14 years in prison for Caldwell.
District Judge Tom Blackwell also ordered the senior Ellebracht to serve 120 days in jail.
Both Ellebrachts remained free on bond pending appeals.
''We had hoped the punishments would have been stiffer,'' District Attorney Ron Sutton said after the jury's decision was read in a packed courtroom.
''Whatever the jury feels is proper. These are the people that live in Kerr County,'' Sutton said.
Co-prosecutor Gerald Carruth said, ''In view of the seriousness and the violent nature of the crimes, the sentences were a little light.''
Defense attorneys appeared relieved at the jury's decision.
''I'm delighted my client's not in jail. That's appropriate. Jail wasn't warranted,'' said Richard ''Racehorse'' Haynes, who represents the senior Ellebracht.
The younger Ellebracht's lawyer Ray Bass said he was disappointed.
''I had hoped the jury would deem it appropriate to give a probated sentence to Junior. Thankfully, the jury didn't view the evidence as the crowd did,'' Bass said.
If the younger Ellebracht loses his appeals and has to go to prison, he will be required to serve a third of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Such a requirement is a result of the jury's finding in its original verdict Wednesday that he used a deadly weapon in commission of the crime.
Charges against the three men stemmed from allegations that Alabama drifter Anthony Bates was tortured to death with a cattle prod at the Ellebracht ranch north of Kerrville.
The state also claimed three other hitchhikers went to the Ellebracht ranch with the promise of work. When the men asked to leave, they were forced to dig ditches in a chain gang and at gunpoint.
The state also charged that the Ellebrachts conspired to pick up hitchhikers and take them to their ranch promising them work. Then they would force them into slavery.
The defense did not deny that Bates and other workers were abused at the ranch. But they claimed there was no conspiracy to kill Bates and contended that the hitchhikers were free to leave the ranch.