Glenn E. Rice | Really long prison terms serve a purpose

He didn’t take anyone’s life, but the crimes Anthony L. Taborn committed were so horrific that three life terms plus 325 years was the only appropriate sentence, a Clay County judge concluded.

That should come to about 415 years in prison.

Overkill? Not at all, prosecutors say.

On July 24, 2009, Taborn and his co-defendant, Taurian J. Burton, donned masks and forced their way into a Northland residence, surprising a man and woman asleep on the living room floor. Taborn and Burton demanded cash and drugs before binding and beating the two victims.

The man was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured skull. The woman told them she was HIV positive, but that didn’t stop them from raping her.

In July, a jury convicted Taborn of forcible rape, first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree assault and three counts of armed criminal action. County Prosecutor Daniel White — who had asked the judge to sentence Taborn to 1,200 years in prison — said he always wants the harshest sentence possible.

“These men earned every single day that they are going to spend in prison,” White said. “They are a danger to everyone that we are sharing air with, and I’d just as soon not share the air with these guys anymore.”

Burton received three life sentences plus 165 years in prison, which should work out to about 255 years. Authorities said Burton will be due a parole hearing in September 2069, when he will be in his early 80s.

When will Taborn be up? No one’s looking that far ahead.

Some cases merit what might appear to be an over-the-top sentence, said Ken Novak, chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “Very often, prosecutors may request and judges may feel compelled to give incredibly lengthy sentences as symbolic justice for particularly hideous crimes or for particularly hideous or chronic criminals.”

Patrick W. Peters, a criminal defense attorney and a former assistant prosecutor, agreed: “You can’t keep him in jail that long, but you sure can send a statement that this kind of repeated conduct will not be tolerated.”

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said that under current Missouri sentencing guidelines, it’s difficult to calculate how much prison time a defendant will serve. Felons can serve as little as 15 percent of their prison sentence.

Zahnd thinks Missouri would adopt sentencing guidelines, as Kansas and the federal court system have. That way judges, lawyers, prosecutors and even defendants would know the possible range of punishment.

“In the federal system, it doesn’t matter what crime you are convicted of — everybody spends at least 85 percent of their prison sentence behind bars,” he said.