Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dog-handler sentenced for role in prison escape

July 19, 2006

Despite attempting to remain upbeat before her sentencing, Toby Young's face showed visible tension and sadness last Wednesday, as she looked at her family across the courtroom.

Young, who founded a volunteer program for prisoners at Lansing Correctional Facility but then used that position to help a convicted murderer escape in February, was sentenced to 21 months in prison by Leavenworth County District Judge Frederick Stewart.

Young had pleaded guilty June 1 to aiding and abetting aggravated escape and introducing contraband into the prison, both level 5 felonies connected to the Feb. 12 escape from Lansing Correctional Facility of inmate John Manard. Young admitted driving Manard out of the prison in the Safe Harbor Prison Dog van.

In sentencing Young, Stewart adhered to a joint agreement between defense and prosecuting attorneys. Jim Yoakum, Young's attorney, said the sentence came as expected, which was partly why Young made no statement in court.

"I know she's very sorry for what she did," Yoakum said. "She has called it an irrational act.

"I don't think she can explain it, and we just didn't think it was necessary to make some grand statement in court today."

Yoakum said he believed the sentence was a fair balance between a minimum sentence of probation and a maximum of 41 months. With considerations for good behavior, Yoakum estimated that Young could be eligible for release as early as fall 2007.

"In the end ... we felt it was a fair result. We felt like we got a fair treatment from the prosecutor up here as well as the judge," Yoakum said. "Twenty-one months isn't exactly a vacation. She's not happy about going to jail, but we felt it was the best we could do. In the end, justice is being served."

Now back in custody, Young will serve the 21-month sentence minus time already spent in jail.

Young started the Safe Harbor program in August 2004 and had been a regular visitor to the Lansing prison's maximum-, medium- and minimum-security areas. The program receives dogs from shelters across northeast Kansas and matches them with inmates who feed, groom and socialize the dogs to improve their chances of being placed in a new home.

Manard, 27, was the program's star trainer.

Yoakum did not know whether Young would be allowed to participate in a prison dog program as a prisoner, but he said he hoped her talents and experience in that regard would not be overlooked.

"I can't think of anyone more qualified to be a part of that," Yoakum said. "I really can't. ... That's going to be up to the prison officials and it's going to be up to her.

"You have to earn your good-time credit, and when you're in prison you have to earn any privileges ... she's so well trained to train dogs and she's had so much experience with that."

Young arrived in court for her sentencing with an entourage of half-a-dozen friends and relatives. Photographers and reporters flanked the group in the courtroom and a flock of Kansas City news crews waited outside the Leavenworth Justice Center hoping to speak to her relatives and friends as they left the courtroom.

Young was taken into custody after the ruling, and will remain in Leavenworth County Jail until paperwork is completed and she is processed out to Topeka. Yoakum said Young was looking forward to serving her time and getting on with her life.

"She's in good spirits. She's looking forward to putting this behind her," the attorney said.

-- John Taylor, editor of the Lansing Current, contributed to this story.

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