September 18, 2004 in City

Transit van driver gets 10-year term

By The Spokesman-Review

COLFAX – Randy Colby, a Pullman Transit Dial-A-Ride driver, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in jail for assaulting disabled van passengers.

Colby pleaded guilty in July to indecent liberties and three counts of third-degree rape.

The 53-year-old Garfield resident wiped tears as his attorney argued for an alternative sentence of rigorous community supervision and therapy, citing Colby’s age, middle-class background and family support.

But speaking on behalf of the victims and their families, an attorney and a care provider argued for a full sentence.

“I am the residential provider that turned you in,” Lorraine Phelps told Colby during the hearing. She was also the person who got the phone call from a hysterical mother who discovered that Colby had victimized her daughter, she said. These families struggle and take great measures to help their children live in the real world, she said.

Bus drivers like Colby are responsible for protecting their passengers, especially those who are disabled, Phelps said. “There are predators out there and unfortunately Mr. Colby is a predator.”

Colby was calculating in his means of getting his victims alone and had been caught for acts that occurred as far back 2000 and as recently as this year, said Ronald B. Webster, an attorney hired by one victim’s family to represent them at the sentencing. That victim was 37 at the time of the crime, but had the mental capacity of someone between the ages of 4 and 7, Webster said. Colby knew when she was alone, he knew where she lived and he knew when her roommate wouldn’t be home, said Webster.

He took advantage of her trust and had intercourse with her on more than one occasion, and he asked her to get a sex video to learn how to have sex, said Webster.

“He knew how vulnerable they were, yet he made a conscious decision to proceed anyway,” said the attorney.

Colby and his attorney, Charles Kovis, both testified that Colby was truly remorseful and repentant.

Kovis said in his years as an attorney he had never seen so much family support as Colby has. Kovis gestured to a bench holding several generations of Colby’s family, including his wife.

“I just want to say to everybody how sorry I really, really am,” said Colby.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier said he knows the past few months have been tragic, difficult and painful, not just for the victims and Colby, but for their families. He said it is obvious that Colby has been honest and cooperative from the day he was arrested. “But I read what happened and look at you and I can’t believe it’s the same human being,” said Frazier.

Criminal laws aren’t just about treatment and rehabilitation, they’re about accountability, said the judge. Putting Colby in a treatment program instead of prison wouldn’t be holding him accountable, said Frazier, adding that he had to think of the victims and what message he would be sending to the community.

Because Colby had three known victims and because he repeatedly assaulted them over a period of time, he would be sentenced to the maximum of the standard range, 116 months, said Frazier.

As the courtroom emptied, one of Colby’s family members walked by the victims’ parents and said, “We’re so sorry.” Others in the group nodded.

Kovis said the sentence was disappointing, but he and Colby understood why the judge ruled the way he did.

At the end of it all, one victim’s mother dissolved into tears.

“I feel so empty,” she said. “I don’t feel good.”

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