MADISON — A Milwaukee
judge relied on inaccurate information about a convict's
criminal history when he sentenced him to 13 years in
prison, but the mistake was harmless because of the
man's multiple brushes with the law, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Donavinn Coffee pleaded
guilty in June 2016 to armed robbery, attempted armed
robbery and reckless endangerment in connection with a
pair of robberies on the street one night in November
2015. Coffee shot and wounded a man during one of them.
According to court
documents, prosecutors told Judge Frederick Rosa during
Coffee's sentencing hearing that Coffee had a lengthy
criminal record, including a previous arrest for armed
robbery in 2011. That was inaccurate — he was arrested
for strong-arm robbery but not armed robbery — but no
one caught the mistake at the time. Rosa mentioned the
2011 armed robbery arrest as part of his justification
for sentencing Coffee to 13 years in prison.
Coffee later appealed,
arguing that his due process rights were violated
because the judge relied on inaccurate information.
The Supreme Court ruled
5-2 that defendants have a constitutional due process
right to be sentenced based on accurate information and
that Coffee's rights were violated. However, the
majority found that the mistake was harmless.
introduced inaccurate information at Coffee's sentencing
hearing, Justice Annette Ziegler wrote for the majority.
But the mention of the 2011 armed robbery arrest wasn't
integral to his sentence and the outcome likely would
have been the same even if Rosa had all the right
information in light of Coffee's multiple run-ins with
the law and increasingly violent behavior, she wrote.
Coffee's attorney, listed
in court documents as Nicole Masnica, didn't immediately
return a message Thursday morning.