The strange tale of Tommy Joe Kelley – aka the Hyde Park Tire Slasher – didn't end last month with his conviction on a third-degree felony charge ("unlawful use of a criminal instrument," i.e., a homemade tire-gutting knife). Somewhat surprisingly, the story continues next Tuesday, Dec. 20, in Judge Julie Kocurek's 390th Criminal District Court, where Kelley and prosecutors from the Travis County District Attorney's Office will gather for a pretrial hearing related to the second of five charges the state has brought against the 56-year-old homeless man, this one stemming from a March 2009 incident in which Kelley was arrested for puncturing tires on two vehicles with a handmade metal tool.
According to county prosecutor Jason English and Kelley's court-appointed standby counsel, Matthew Jones, Kelley has extended an offer to the state to resolve all four remaining cases, but the state has yet to respond. Next Tuesday will be the first round of plea-bargaining negotiations between the two parties, not to mention the first indication the public will get of whether or not the state will be going through with the prosecution of those other four cases. Several members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Tire Slasher Task Force, including its leader, Heather Dozier Freeman, have said the 10-year sentence passed down by a jury last month was enough to satisfy their desire for justice, but with Kelley now saying he'll appeal that conviction, prosecutors may go ahead with the other four charges. It's hard to imagine a person spending 50 years in prison for assaulting tires, but we are talking a lot of tires here – maybe as many as 1,000 over 16 years. If the state does decide to go forward with the case, the first jury docket is scheduled for Jan. 5.
Meanwhile, Kelley is working on his appeal from a Downtown jail cell, and an appellate attorney has been assigned to his case (Kelley is wisely using a professional this time around). Kelley technically has 120 days after his conviction to file his appellate brief, though Jones told the Chronicle he doesn't expect the wheels of the appeals process to really start turning for at least nine months.
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