David Appleby is a free man after serving 12 years of a life sentence for multiple drunken driving convictions.
Circuit Judge David Sims on Friday signed off on a joint disposition motion by Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith and Appleby's attorney, Melissa Giggenbach, agreeing to terms of release for the first man in West Virginia to be sentenced to life in prison for drunken driving.
Appleby had been convicted of DUI eight times prior to his life sentence, according to Smith.
Appleby will be on monitored home confinement for the next six months and will remain on probation until Sept. 1, 2016 - the date he would have been eligible for parole. He must also wear a monitor to detect the presence of alcohol, attend treatment court sessions and submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
Now-retired Circuit Judge Arthur Recht sentenced Appleby, now 54, to life in prison in 2001 after Appleby accepted a plea deal without knowing the full extent of possible penalties.
"You paid a high price for what you did," Sims told Appleby during Friday's hearing. "I sincerely hope you stay on track and stay away from the demons."
The judge reminded Appleby that the holiday season can be a tempting time for consuming alcohol.
"I hope I do not see you in here again," Sims said. "If that happens, it is likely you will spend the rest of your life behind bars."
Several members of Appleby's family smiled and nodded in the affirmative when Sims asked if they were in the courtroom to support the defendant.
Following the hearing, Smith said he agreed to Appleby's release because he believes Appleby would have been granted parole as soon as he was eligible, freeing him with minimal restrictions. Friday's agreement, however, requires him to be under much closer supervision, he said.
"It's up to Mr. Appleby to take advantage of this opportunity and become a productive member of society," Smith said.
According to court records, Recht advised Appleby during his Nov. 21, 2001 plea hearing on charges of DUI third offense or subsequent, third-offense driving while revoked for DUI that the maximum prison term for each of the offenses to which he pled guilty was 1-3 years, but because the sentences could be imposed consecutively, the maximum sentence would be 2-6 years.
Court documents state Recht accepted the plea, and did not indicate that county Prosecutor Scott Smith could seek a life sentence under West Virginia's recidivism law, which allows such a sentence to be imposed upon anyone upon a third or subsequent felony conviction. He accepted the plea and deferred sentencing until a pre-sentence report could be completed.
Later, at Smith's request, Recht sentenced Appleby to life based on previous convictions, including three for felony DUI and one each for unlawful assault and third-offense driving while revoked for DUI. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Recht's decision that third-offense DUI is a crime of violence.