Nashua man to serve prison stint, enter treatment
NASHUA – From all accounts, the majority of Kelvin James’s adult life has been a proverbial roller coaster, the peaks his close, loving relationship with his extended family, the valleys his occasional slides into criminal activity over nearly 40 years.
It was James’s most recent arrest 14 months ago that was the topic of Monday’s court hearing, an emotional, teary proceeding in Hillsborough County Superior Court South at which the 59-year-old James was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in State Prison, with the provision he can apply to have one year of the minimum suspended upon his successful completion of a drug treatment program.
James, most recently of 8 Dale St., previously pleaded guilty to three counts of sale of crack cocaine, charges that stem from his arrest in December 2016 as part of a Nashua police Granite Hammer sweep.
But of all James’s ups and downs over the decades, his lowest point, according to him, his lawyer, Attorney Justin Shepherd, and a family member who spoke on his behalf Monday, came in 2011, when he lost his former wife – then one of his daughters was killed in a crash after leaving the former wife’s funeral.
James, a large man with a full, baritone voice, choked up repeatedly when his turn came to address the court.
“Losing my (former wife) and daughter … it hurts, you know?” he told Colburn, adding that he turned to drugs to try and ease the pain.
“These two people passing away … left me in a bad way. Sometimes (circumstances) push you to do the wrong thing,” James continued, asking Colburn that if she “can find it in your heart” to not send him to prison, he wouldn’t let her down.
“Certain things happened … I take responsibility for it. I have a very good family. I’m trying to fix my life,” James said.
One of the 10 or so family members who attended Monday’s hearing read a brief statement to the court.
“Kelvin is not perfect. But family is everything to him,” the woman said.
“We ask that he gets help, not go to jail.”
Shepherd said it’s likely that the 2011 tragedy had a lasting effect on James. “I don’t think he ever dealt with that, in terms of counseling or treatment,” Shepherd told the court.
“He turned to (drugs) as a coping mechanism,” Shepherd said, adding that James hasn’t come before the court since 2009, and that he was selling crack cocaine to supplement his heroin addiction.
Shepherd asked the court to “let him be on probation, so he can get the help he needs.”
Assistant County Attorney Lisa Drescher, who prosecuted the case, acknowledged that James did “take advantage of treatment programs” during his previous prison stints, which stemmed from firearms violations and drug offenses.
And she recognized also that “he had a tragic event in his life while he was on parole,” referring to the 2011 deaths, and that he has stayed out of trouble while out on bail following his December 2016 arrest.
“But we have an individual who, under the circumstances, should serve prison time,” Drescher said.
When it came time to impose sentence, Colburn described the case as “troubling in a lot of ways … (but) there are some positive things as well as some things not so positive.”
Referring to Shepherd’s earlier assessment of the disparity in James’s behavior as a “Jekyll and Hyde” situation, Colburn agreed that “there is a big dichotomy between Mr. James the family man, and Mr. James the criminal defendant.
“It’s hard to reconcile those two things,” she said.
Given James’s history, Colburn said she “cannot agree to not sentence you to prison time, so I’m adopting the state’s recommendation – but I’m also going to give you an opportunity” for one year to be suspended.
That’s contingent upon his acceptance, and successful completion of, the prison’s Focus program, or an equivalent program, Colburn said.
“If you do that program and stay out of trouble in prison, you’ll get the benefit of the doubt,” she said. If you can’t, you’ll have to do the entire 2 1/2 to 5 years.
“Your family needs you, and you need them,” Colburn added. “They’ll still be there for you when you’re released.”
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, email@example.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.