A man who tried to put a hit on the district attorney and two others saw his 20-year sentence cut by more than half last month after a successful appeal of the most serious charges against him.
Dustin Kimbrough was sentenced in 2014 for charges including attempted aggravated murder after he asked a fellow inmate at the regional jail in 2012 to hire a hitman to kill Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley and Kimbrough’s father-in-law and brother-in-law.
The other inmate quickly told authorities about the plot.
Kimbrough’s then-attorney appealed the sentence, and last December the Oregon Supreme Court struck down his convictions for four counts of attempted aggravated murder, three counts of attempted murder and two counts of tampering with a witness.
The court ruled Kimbrough himself had to take “substantial steps” to see through a crime he planned to participate in personally in order for those charges to stick.
He was resentenced April 9 to 99 months in prison, and he has already served almost seven years of that time.
Kimbrough told the judge he hoped “you will have a sense of a change in me” and of his “sincere apology to all I have affected by my choices.”
He added, “what I hope is that you do not see me as a monster or danger to society.”
At the resentencing, Nisley said he didn’t have any comment on the length of the sentence. “This case really strikes at the heart of responsibility and accepting responsibility, especially for the defendant.”
Nisley said in 2012 Kimbrough was offered a 30-day sentence for first-degree burglary after he stole two bags of pop cans. “But instead of being willing to accept responsibility for what he had done, he decided to take another course of action which was to try to get people killed, and the fact that I’m a district attorney elevates the charge in some levels but it really doesn’t make that much difference because it’s really about Mr. Kimbrough’s inability to empathize with anything other than his own needs and his own selfishness and his own self-absorbed desire to avoid any responsibility for what he had done.”
He said Kimbrough was facing just 30 days for the original burglary charge and now must serve 99 months.
Visiting Circuit Court Judge Douglas Van Dyk of Clackamas County said he appreciated Nisley’s “insightful” and “poignant” comments and said he hoped Kimbrough thinks about them over the years.
He urged Kimbrough to think “about that relatively simple change to hold yourself accountable and not lash out, especially when lashing out means attacking the justice system, the very system on which we all depend for so much.”
Van Dyk said he hoped Kimbrough “has a deep reservoir of regret and recognizes the foolishness. It’s so obvious, I imagine that he does.”
Kimbrough’s attorney, Lisa Valenta, said, “I think he will tell you that in 2012 he was a very angry person; he was addicted to methamphetamine, he was in a less than ideal relationship with his wife’s family.”
Valenta said Kimbrough had a cellmate “who also encouraged him, who’s gone on to commit heinous crimes.”
The cellmate who Kimbrough asked to hire a hitman, Francis Crowley, 33, was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison, with 10 suspended, for abandoning a baby in a Montana forest. The baby survived.
Valenta said Crowley’s encouragement fed into Kimbrough’s “anger and hurt feelings and that fed into the letter that he wrote to the fictitious hitman.”
Kimbrough in his letter listed specific ways for his in-laws to be killed, and said the hit man could choose his own method for killing Nisley.
Kimbrough read a letter to the court, apologizing for the life-changing actions he took. “The choices I made were malice in nature and very disrespectful. Just because someone is doing their job is no reason for me to try taking one’s life...I was the one to break the law and no one else.”
He said his choices “hurt, scarred and scared you for the rest of your lives. My immediate family was affected as well. My apology goes out to them as well. I’m not going to make excuses for my actions that were so reprehensible.”
He said when he started his incarceration his goals were to change as a person and take advantage of any and all programming and classes he qualified for.
He listed a number of programs and classes he’d completed, including in anger management and communications, and a class so he could be a tutor. He said he was a model prisoner who has sometimes worked unsupervised and holds positions of great trust and responsibility.
The judge replied, “I think people change, Mr. Kimbrough. I think people change; and it sounds like you have changed. You have to live change; you can’t just describe it with words. They have power, but it’s actions that have real power, and you know that.”
Valenta noted Kimbrough wrote his letter in January, before she met him. “It’s not something I coached him to write or anything else, and I think it shows he’s given great thought to this.”
Van Dyk said, “That’s much more convincing that you’ve done the sort of self examination that everyone would like to see.”
Van Dyk said when Kimbrough got out he would have to implement the lessons he’s learned, and do it without supervision.
Van Dyk asked him what had changed about him.
Kimbrough replied, “I’m not as angry as I used to be, your honor; I just didn’t care.” He added, “my mind was so filled with doing drugs that I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I made a mistake.”
He said he could understand where Nisley was coming from. “I scared them half to death.” He added, “I’m not that person anymore.”
Van Dyk said, “when you face situations that are frustrating in your life, and you will, you need to ask, ‘Am I only focused on myself? And maybe I shouldn’t be. And maybe I should be thinking about others.’ I think that’s a really important insight.”
He congratulated Kimbrough on all the classes he took. “It’s digging you out of a well of anger.”
He was resentenced to 3 consecutive sentences of 33 months each for three counts of attempting to solicit aggravated murder.