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Judge grants time in sentencing for Superior murder

Judge George Glonek listens to the lawyer for Teah Phillips on the phone during a motion hearing at the Douglas County Courthouse in Superior on Wednesday afternoon. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Debbie Velin walked out of Douglas County Circuit Court on Wednesday shoving the door hard.

The mother of shooting victim Garth Velin, who was killed during a botched robbery attempt at his home Sept. 30, 2014, had anticipated having one more of the four convicted in connection with her son’s death sentenced Thursday.

Instead, she learned Wednesday there would be another delay — this time in the sentencing of Teah Joan Phillips, 18.

Phillips pleaded guilty in April to an amended charge of party to armed robbery with use of force. She was originally chargedwith party to felony murder for her role in identifying Garth Velin as the person at his home just before his death.

Velin was shot twice in the chest by Chance William Andrews, 19, who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for the murder and unrelated crimes.

Debbie Velin said she first learned there was an issue with the planned sentencing Wednesday morning when she got a message from a Douglas County victim advocate.

After receiving a letter from Phillips attorney, Mark Biller, Wednesday morning, Douglas County Circuit Court Judge George Glonek set the hearing the same day to consider the motion that would ultimately delay sentencing Phillips.

Biller said he had hoped to avoid a delay, but under the circumstances, to represent his client adequately, he had no choice but to seek a continuance of the sentencing scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

He said the issue was the presentence investigation filed last week.

Biller said while his office received a copy of the presentence investigation June 22, he was out of the office and didn’t have access to it until Monday, which gave him insufficient time to confer with Phillips about the report that guides the court’s sentencing decisions.

“I see some problems here that I need to cover,” Biller said.

He said meeting with Phillips before the scheduled sentencing hearing Thursday was insufficient time to cover the issues. He challenged the completeness of the presentence investigation.

“I do not believe this PSI is a complete enough product to actually advise the court on the standards it must consider,” Biller said.

The attorney said he didn’t foresee the time of sentencing to be an issue but expected the presentence investigation to be a more balanced and fair product.  

“As I see this PSI, it could have been a product of the prosecutor’s office,” Biller said. “… I think it is absolutely necessary that I have adequate time to go over the PSI with my client.”

Biller said he is considering an independent presentence investigation. He expected that to take about 60 days.

“It’s not Garth’s fault that Mr. Biller didn’t do his job and was out of town and didn’t see this thing coming,” Debbie Velin said, addressing the court. “This has gone on long enough … This will never be over for us. Garth is dead.”

Meanwhile, Velin said, Phillips has been bailed out of jail and has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.

“She is already getting away with murder,” Velin said Wednesday. “Don’t let her get away with this. Make her come to court tomorrow. Make her finally pay for what she did to Garth. He’s dead. She’s out footing around; he is dead.”

Velin was 20 when he was killed in his Allouez neighborhood home.

District Attorney Dan Blank opposed the delay, stating that when Phillips entered her plea in April and the sentencing date was set, it was his priority that there was enough time.

“I don’t know that an alternate PSI should be in response to a PSI,” Blank said. “That could’ve and should’ve been done already.”

He said if there are facts in dispute in the presentence investigation, Biller should be able to respond immediately to those. He said there was no need for another investigation from his perspective.

Biller said the report was “essentially advocacy for the prosecution” and his client has the right to dispute it.

“I can understand frustration and emotions,” Glonek said. “The standard for the court is ‘is there good cause for a continuance?’ … No one’s interested in continuing or delaying this case any longer. But I doubt that anyone’s interested in additional appellate issues if the court denied continuance.”

Glonek granted the motion to delay the sentencing. A new sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 15.

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