PRESCOTT -- A former Prescott pastor has been sentenced to three years of supervised probation for two counts of aggravated assault.
Thomas Chantry, 48, was convicted of the two class 6 felonies in August after a five-week trial. The charges stem from incidents of Chantry disciplining children of the families in his congregation at Miller Valley Baptist Church so severely he left bruises and marks. These incidents took place between 18 and 23 years ago.
The sentencing was imposed by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bradley Astrowsky at Yavapai County Superior Court’s Prescott location on Friday, Oct. 19.
Both the prosecution, headed by Yavapai County Deputy Attorney Susan Eazer, and the adult victims Chantry was found to have assaulted when they were children, were disappointed by the sentencing, having requested that Chantry receive prison time.
A maximum of two years in prison could have been imposed if the judge found the charges to be aggravated (exceptionally egregious). Considering all factors surrounding the case, Astrowsky chose not to increase the severity of the charges.
“When the court has someone who is convicted of two class 6 felonies with no prior criminal history, I couldn’t think of an occasion of which, under such circumstances, I’ve seen, either as a practitioner or as a judge, a prison term imposed,” Astrowsky said.
He also considered imposing an initial jail term, but even that didn’t make sense to him.
“The problem with imposing an initial jail term – I’m letting you in to my thought process here – is that [Chantry’s] already in custody,” Astrowsky said.
Only one year of initial jail time can be imposed for each count, Astrowsky added. Some or all of that time can be used upfront or as a potential punishment if Chantry violates his probation. Since Chantry is already in custody on a $1 million cash bond for another case, it would be a waste of that potential punishment by starting to use that jail time now, he explained.
“The likelihood of (the $1 million bond) being posted, I trust, is not significant, because he would have posted bail already,” Astrowsky said.
In addition to the probation, Chantry must serve 100 hours of community service; he may not interact with children other than his own unless under supervision; and must undergo a psychological evaluation and follow whatever recommendations come from that.
“I don’t want to play psychologist from the bench, but there may be some issues that you might need help with,” the judge said to Chantry.
MORE CHARGES TO BE TRIED
Less than a month after Chantry’s trial concluded, nine new felony charges were filed against him and he was ordered to be held at the Yavapai County jail on a $1 million bond, where he currently remains.
During Friday’s sentencing, Astrowsky made reference to two cases surrounding these charges and said it’s unclear whether or not they will be consolidated.
“I think these cases are connected,” Astrowski said. “They may be tried together, but that remains to be seen.”
“I’m going to file a motion that the cases should be consolidated and – obviously for convenience purposes, if nothing else – should remain in Yavapai County, where we have a courtroom for trial at some point sooner than in two years,” Eazer said.
Chantry’s defense attorney, John Sears said there are a number of complicating factors that may alter the way Chantry’s cases are handled moving forward. First of all, he will no longer serve as Chantry’s attorney because he will be retiring. A replacement defense attorney has already been unofficially selected and is expected to make his first appearance at Chantry’s next status conference, which is set for Nov. 14.
Another complication is that the replacement attorney has already requested to disqualify the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office from working on the case any further. “That motion has just been filed on Tuesday of this week, but hasn’t been briefed yet,” Sears said.
Once some of these details have been ironed out, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Patricia Trebesch will be the judge overseeing Chantry’s new charges and trial, Eazer said.
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