While he may not have been present in the courtroom, former Chehalis resident Forrest Amos remained the center of discussion during a hearing in Lewis County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon, where a judge declined a review of his sentence for a 2017 conviction.
Amos, who was described by authorities as a “drug kingpin” for previous drug convictions, argued through his attorney that he was incorrectly sentenced to over 10 years for forging the signatures of prosecutors and police officers.
In December, Amos filed a request that he be resentenced in the matter, arguing that the court was in error by sentencing him to a term longer than the five-year statutory limit of a class C felony.
A jury found Amos guilty in 2017 of four counts of forgery and four counts of first-degree criminal impersonation for forging signatures of Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and Centralia police officers Chad Withrow and Adam Haggerty on legal documents while incarcerated on another matter.
At the time, Cowlitz County Deputy Prosecutor Don Richter, who acted as a special prosecutor in the case, recommended Amos be sentenced to 29 months on the four forgery convictions, and for each of the convictions to run consecutively. Under most circumstances, the sentences would run concurrently, but Richter argued Amos’ criminal history — 21 previous felony convictions — warranted an exceptional sentence.
Judge James Lawler went with Richter’s recommendation, handing Amos a 116-month-total sentence.
During the hearing Tuesday, Amos’ current attorney Thomas Creekpaum argued for Amos — who was not present at the hearing, due to his incarceration in a Department of Corrections facility — and contended that a series of consecutive sentences shouldn’t exceed a statutory maximum sentence.
Creekpaum said Amos argued that, hypothetically, someone could essentially be given a life sentence for committing a series of low-level felonies if a judge decided to have all the sentences run consecutively.
Creekpaum said the statute was “ambiguous” on the limitations of such situations, and as such, should rule in the defendant’s favor.
“This is certainly a novel reading of the statutes,” said Judge James Lawler, who ultimately denied the motion.
That came after an argument from Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh, who said the statutes were not at all ambiguous, and provided judges the ability to hand out exceptional sentences under certain aggravating circumstances.
“Amos’ position is contrary to the plain language of the statutes and the case law. A trial court may depart from the standard range without a jury finding, aggravating a sentence, if ‘the defendant has committed multiple current offenses and the defendant’s high offender score results in some of the current offenses going unpunished,’” reads a response filed by Beigh.
Creekpaum said he was under the impression Amos would be listening into the hearing telephonically, however the court never received a call from Amos’ location at the DOC.
According to a document signed by Amos and filed in December that details Amos’ argument, the hearing Tuesday had to wait until the conclusion of another legal challenge Amos had posed in a separate criminal matter.
Amos alleged that his attorney-client privilege was violated when detectives searched his cell and seized a large number of documents while he was being held in the Lewis County Jail.
Detective had reason to believe Amos was communicating with cohorts from the jail.
Amos also argued he received ineffective legal counsel.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee, in his decision, wrote that he found Amos’ testimony unreliable.