By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
First, on September 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Cottrell had not been given a fair trial because the jury was not allowed to hear about his Asperger’s syndrome and the part it may have played in his recruitment and participation in the attacks. The court ordered that he be given a new trial for seven of the eight felony arson charges he was convicted of, but it let stand his conviction on one charge of conspiracy to commit arson.
Then, last week, the federal government announced it was dropping the seven arson charges, thus eliminating the chance of a retrial, and ending the possibility of his Asperger’s being introduced as evidence. All that was left was for Judge Klausner to resentence him on the one remaining charge of conspiracy to commit arson.
But Klausner explained why, despite the reversal by the appeals court on seven of the eight charges, he was not changing his original sentence of 100 months in prison, which allows for the possibility of release after 85 months, depending on Cottrell’s prison behavior: “He may be one of the best minds in physics, and I would have liked to see that talent used from day one. But talent doesn’t excuse him from having to abide by the law. These crimes were really heinous — lives were affected, a hundred vehicles were destroyed and there were many millions of dollars of damages. This cannot be minimized.”
But the judge also addressed the human side of the thinking behind his sentence.
“Is it sad to see him in prison? You bet. But you have to take accountability for what you have done. It did involve quite a bit of planning, and the defendant did not play a minor role. ... There is no question this was done to influence and intimidate the conduct of other people.”
Sensing the despair in the courtroom, Klausner said it will not be too late for Cottrell to realize his potential when he is released.
“I believe it will happen, that he will be very productive,” he said.
Attorney Rudnick said he was shocked that Klausner refused to alter his 100-month sentence.
“As a matter of public policy, it is unusual for there to be no consideration given like this, none at all,” Rudnick says. “Very unusual.”
But Cottrell family friend Kates says he believes it is easy to understand why the judge insisted on sticking with his original sentence.
“The judge is trying to save face. He intentionally overlooked the reality of Asperger’s at the original trial and now he wants to stick by this to justify himself, to keep from losing face,” Kates says. “I experience this as a tragedy, but the judge doesn’t care. He is making it all about himself.”
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city