Prosecutors: Conviction could land Riley Choate in prison for life

2012-07-17T17:45:00Z 2013-01-11T14:25:07Z Prosecutors: Conviction could land Riley Choate in prison for lifeBy Susan Brown (219) 662-5325

CROWN POINT | Riley Choate, a former Gary man facing murder and other charges in the death of his teenage son, was told Tuesday he would serve an additional 30 years in prison if convicted under habitual offender laws.

Choate, 40, is less than a month from trial in the death of 13-year-old Christian Choate. The boy's remains were found in a shallow grave in a mobile home park two years after his death.

Choate initially faced murder, 11 felony charges and a single misdemeanor count when charged, but prosecutors later added 13 counts of habitual offender enhancements.

Under habitual offender sentencing laws, the court can impose up to three times the advisory sentence with a cap of 30 years. Advisory sentences comprise the starting point at which the court calculates a sentence.

Lake Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michael Toth argued with Choate's two prior felony convictions for auto theft, the court must impose the additional 30-year sentence upon conviction.

If convicted of murder under the enhancement, Choate faces a possible 85-year sentence based on the advisory sentence of 55 years.

Whether Choate's current trial date holds up may depend on whether prosecutors produce court transcripts requested by defense attorney Randy Godshalk on Tuesday.

Godshalk told the court he will seek a continuance of Choate's trial if the records are not produced in the next two weeks.

Also on Tuesday, Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell denied Godshalk's third motion to withdraw from the case.

With Choate out of money to pay the attorney, Godshalk during earlier hearings had requested he be paid at the reduced rate of a public defender.

But Boswell, backed by Chief Public Defender David Schneider, determined that would set an welcome precedent.

On Tuesday, Choate spoke to his concern about being represented by an unpaid attorney.

Boswell, however, told Choate she was confident Choate would not be given "the short end of the stick" by retaining Godshalk.

In addition, appointing a new attorney could delay his trial for as much as a year, she told Choate.

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