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Second defendant sentenced to 45 years in prison for 2006 death

By LESLIE WILBER
Oct. 9, 2009 at 5:09 a.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2009 at 5:10 a.m.

Stanford Harvey

In a nutshell:

Stanford Harvey, 45, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for aggravated assault on Friday. He was convicted last week of encouraging the beating death of 42-year-old Melba Lott in 2006.

Although aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, Judge Robert Cheshire could consider first-degree felony punishments because of Harvey's felony record.

At the lightest end of sentences there was less than 10 years probation; at the harshest, life in prison.

The witnesses for Judge Robert Cheshire's consideration Friday were nearly as disparate. The state produced a parade of women accusing Stanford Nolan Harvey of pimping, abuse and drug use. Harvey, silent during the jury trial, bellowed his innocence from the stand.

Cheshire sentenced Harvey to 45 years in prison for the aggravated assault of Melba Lott. Harvey was found guilty last week in the beating that led the 42-year-old Lott's 2006 death.

"I'm satisfied," said Milton Lott, Melba Lott's older brother. "Considering what the DA's office had to present to the jury."

Harvey was accused of egging on Bruce Hughes, Lott's boyfriend, as he beat her to death. A jury convicted Hughes, 42, of capital murder in February.

A third defendant, Amanda Jo Walters, said during Hughes' trial that the trio pretended to sell Lott crack so they could rob her. The 21-year-old woman said she stood outside during the beating, and heard Harvey and Lott's yells.

Walters refused to testify in Harvey's trial and was held in contempt of court.

Hughes did testify and said he alone beat Lott, then left her in her bloody apartment. She was found there dead days or weeks later, so decomposed that an initial autopsy listed her cause of death as cocaine toxicity.

During the sentencing, District Attorney Steve Tyler illustrated Harvey's world as a violent place were hankerings for crack guide actions.

Harvey's estranged wife, Erica Deleon Harvey, looked ill as she hugged her pregnant belly, cried and rubbed her forehead. Her husband pimped her several times a month, and forced other women into prostitution for drug money, Erica Harvey said. He pimped Walters as a young teenager, she said adding she had been afraid of her husband.

"Did he beat you more than he prostituted you, or did he prostitute you more than he beat you?" Tyler asked.

"I guess we fought more," she said.

The next witness, convicted drug-dealer Rita Chicon DeLaGarza, said she saw Erica Harvey hide under a mattress in her yard while her husband beat her with a belt and board.

"He said 'If you want her, you can have her,'" DeLaGarza said.

Harvey's family admitted his addiction, but said he was incapable of murder.

"He never did drugs in front of me or his sister," said Johnny Davis, Harvey's brother-in-law of 20 years. "He's never been violent in front of me or my wife."

Stanford Harvey was the final witness to testify on his behalf. He dabbed his eyes with a tissue as he sat at the witness stand.

He talked about meeting Melba Lott in elementary school, and about hearing of her death. He did not kill her, he said.

Harvey looked at Lt. Tom Copeland of the Victoria County Sheriff's Office and accused him of bullying in interrogations.

He looked next at Milton Lott, who sat in the front row of the courtroom throughout the trial.

"I can't apologize for what happened to her, but I can tell you I hurt," Harvey said.

He began speaking louder, crying hysterically.

"I would have stopped him," he said.

Tyler objected, but Harvey continued, louder.

"I have been here two weeks listening to this man," he said, gesturing to Tyler. "Can I please talk?"

A deputy walked up from the back of the room and unholstered his stun gun. Cheshire calmed Harvey, reminding him not to talk over the lawyers, and recessed court for 15 minutes.

An appeal may soon be in the works, defense lawyer Frank Davila said after the sentencing, given the state's dependence on unreliable witnesses.

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