Pasco killer's resentencing delayed by defense

PASCO -- The resentencing of a convicted killer has been postponed for five weeks because his attorney had a conflict with a homicide trial.

DeLonde Pleasant, 32, agreed to the delay Thursday in Franklin County Superior Court.

Now, a jury is to be seated March 23 to decide if Pleasant's actions in March 2002 involved deliberate cruelty and more force than necessary when he beat his live-in girlfriend.

Juanita Montelongo, 20, died from her injuries hours after Pleasant came home in a drunken rage and repeatedly kicked and beat her.

The sentencing hearing had been scheduled to start Feb. 16, but defense attorney Karla Kane notified the court Thursday that her trial in the case of Ramon Garcia-Morales has been set on that date.

Judge Cameron Mitchell questioned if Kane had told Judge Vic VanderSchoor she had a conflict with that February date during a hearing earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Kane and co-counsel Kevin Holt told VanderSchoor that they needed time to interview witnesses in Garcia-Morales' murder case and requested that date.

Kane told Mitchell on Thursday that she did not address the conflict directly with VanderSchoor, but said it was the only time the trial could be held with Holt's vacation schedule and the appointment of Steve Lowe as special prosecutor.

Kane added that she has another Franklin County homicide trial starting April 6. She asked for Pleasant's case to be set on the first available date.

Mitchell, who didn't appear pleased with the delay, said his court calendar is almost full with other lengthy hearings and trials from February through April.

He then said he could fit the resentencing in starting March 23.

Kane said that she needs to verify if her psychologist will be free to testify that week.

Mitchell also asked Pleasant if the date is acceptable and he responded, "Yes, sir."

He entered an Alford plea in January 2003 to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 1/2 years in prison. The plea means he denied committing the crime but believed prosecutors had evidence to convict him.

In early 2009, the Washington Court of Appeals overturned the sentence, saying prosecutors needed to have a jury decide if the aggravating factors warranted the extra time.

The standard sentence for Pleasant would have been 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years. His guilty plea was not affected by the appeals ruling.

Pleasant believes he has done the necessary time and should be released.

Prosecutors want him to remain locked up as recommended. That means up to 16 more years in prison for him if jurors agree the crime was excessive and the judge gives him the same sentence.