Courthouse Steps: From high school to state prison

Jaylon Trahan (inset) assaulted two educators at Port Arthur Memorial in 2012.

Fridays in the Criminal District Court in Jefferson County is a busy time, even for a courtroom that is always buzzing. The trial docket is crowded with the cases of criminal defendants back for their second or third bite of the judicial apple after they have violated the terms of the probation they had been granted in lieu of prison following their guilty pleas to various felony crimes.

Their situations are even more precarious because they must again face Judge John Stevens who has previously given them a second chance, with their failures now reflecting on his judgment. One young woman on the docket this morning, Nov. 13, had previously admitted to financial crimes she said were caused by drug addiction. Facing up to 20 years in prison, she had been granted probation and sent to a tough drug rehab program operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. SAFE P stands for Substance Abuse Felony Punishment, and the 90-day lockdown regimen in a special prison unit that enjoys a reported 80 percent success rate, but this woman was kicked out for nine separate violations. In addition, she had written a letter to a judge she mistakenly believed had jurisdiction over her case telling him he was “evil” if he didn’t immediately dismiss her case and set her free to reclaim her kids. That judge forwarded the letter to Stevens, who read it aloud in court. He had to repeatedly prompt the obviously disturbed woman to look at him. Noting he could sentence her to 20 years in prison, he ultimately chose to delay entering judgment in her case pending his order for a psychiatric exam.

Jaylon Marquis Trahan was not so lucky. In 2012, he assaulted two educators at Port Arthur Memorial High School. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to two counts of assault on a public servant in what the victims say was a violent and brutal display of aggression at the school. Trahan had been indicted for the assaults on Richard Gohlke and Dr. Brenda Brooks-Coleman, two teachers who were trying to calm Trahan down after he returned to school. After watching video footage of the assault at the original sentencing, Stevens said Trahan should be in jail.

“You rang a bell that can’t be un-rung,” Stevens said. “When you assault an educator, you can’t take it back.”

Stevens said Trahan deserves to have the third-degree felony on his record, adding Stevens’ own mother was an educator in Port Arthur.

“My mother reared five children, went to college afterwards and was a teacher in the Port Arthur school district,” he said. “I can’t even imagine someone coming to punch her out for no reason.”

In spite of his misgivings, Stevens took into account the defendant’s age – Trahan was 17 at the time of the attack – and sentenced him to 10 years probation to begin after 180 days in the county jail.

Trahan served his jail sentence but repeatedly refused to comply with the terms of his probation. He was arrested again and the state moved to revoke his probation. Judge Stevens agreed and imposed two 10-year prison sentences on Trahan, now 20 and about to complete his chosen journey from high school to state prison.

So another day ends in the administration of justice in Jefferson County.

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