Arrow-right Camera


Convict denied drug program

Thu., May 19, 2005

Despite pleas from his mother and new wife and promises to reform, a prolific Spokane County burglar failed Wednesday to convince a judge he deserves another chance.

Even defense attorney Tracy Collins acknowledged that Christopher John Cannata, 32, had “about run himself out of rope” by the time he stood before Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno to be sentenced for residential burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm. But Collins blamed Cannata’s record of 19 criminal convictions on an untreated drug problem.

Collins called for Moreno to sentence Cannata under a program that substitutes drug treatment for prison time.

“The last time he had treatment, your honor, he was 13 years old,” Collins told Moreno. “It was at Deaconess (Medical Center) and, while he was in that program, he was molested by a priest.”

Collins said Cannata sued the Roman Catholic Church and recently won a settlement. In fact, Deputy Prosecutor Bob Sargent said outside the courtroom, Cannata used part of his sex-abuse settlement to post a $50,000 bail bond in the residential burglary case for which he was sentenced Wednesday.

In that case, Cannata knocked on the front door of a Five Mile Prairie home about 1:20 p.m. on April 5, 2004, then kicked in the back door without realizing resident Elroy Dusbabek was about to step out that door. Dusbabek grabbed a pistol and fired a shot as Cannata fled to a car in which another man was waiting. Dusbabek remembered part of the car’s license plate, and sheriff’s detectives traced the vehicle to Jennifer K. Pavlin, who got a license to marry Cannata about a month ago.

In court Wednesday, Dusbabek said he hoped Cannata gets drug treatment but thought he should do it in prison.

“This needs to come to an end,” Dusbabek said. “It looks like he has had a lot of chances.”

Moreno agreed and asked Cannata why he hadn’t taken advantage of the drug treatment programs that were available during his previous incarcerations.

“I used my addiction pretty much as a security blanket pretty much from the time I was 13,” Cannata told Moreno.

Pavlin said she met Cannata three days after he got out of prison the last time and helped him in an unsuccessful six-month search for a job.

“Unfortunately, with his record, society doesn’t want him anymore,” Pavlin said.

Collins said Cannata’s marriage to Pavlin, who has no history of drug use or crime, gives Cannata hope. But that hope might not survive a long prison term, Collins said.

“Oftentimes, I look at her and I wonder, ‘What was she thinking?’ ” Collins said.

Cannata’s record of burglaries, thefts and drug use is “atrocious,” Collins acknowledged. But, “we don’t have any steady indication that Mr. Cannata is a violent person.”

The residential burglary charge to which Cannata pleaded guilty May 13 – along with a recent unrelated charge of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm – was more like an attempted burglary because Cannata never got inside, Collins told Moreno.

Cannata and his mother, Sue Cannata, apologized to Dusbabek and expressed gratitude that neither man was injured. Dusbabek said he didn’t intend to hit Cannata when he shot at him, but he wondered what might have happened if Cannata had burst in on an elderly woman who might have died of a heart attack.

Moreno told Cannata she might give someone with a couple of prior convictions a break, but Cannata’s record was “appalling.”

“I have a responsibility to everyone, not just you,” Moreno said, rejecting Cannata’s bid for sentencing under a special drug program called DOSA.

The program provides midrange standard sentences, with half of the prison time converted to drug treatment in the community. Sargent said Cannata might have served as little as 18 months in prison under a DOSA sentence because defendants convicted of property crimes can get their sentences cut in half for good behavior in prison.

Instead, Moreno gave Cannata a midrange sentence of almost six years, meaning he will serve about three if he behaves well in prison. Cannata’s standard range was 51/4 years to seven years.


Click here to comment on this story »