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Judge give departure from sentencing guidelines due to unique circumstance

Keovilay was sentenced to 33 months in a correctional facility, a departure from the recommended 60 months, with credit for 109 days served.

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Dao Keovilay

WORTHINGTON — Dao Keovilay, 28, of Worthington was sentenced on Friday in Nobles County Fifth District Court in a case previously reported by The Globe. Keovilay was arrested in November 2021 on felony charges of illegal firearm possession and drug possession.

Keovilay entered a guilty plea and was convicted on the charge of illegal possession of ammo and firearm after being convicted of committing a crime of violence. Keovilay has several prior convictions, starting at the age of 19, but has had fewer run-ins with the law in recent years, which was taken into consideration during his sentencing.

Keovilay’s attorney Brittany Sandager had requested a departure from sentencing guidelines due to Keovilay’s unique circumstances. She stated that Keovilay suffers from PTSD after witnessing the shooting and near-death of his younger brother in 2020, and had the gun only for the purpose of protection. He had no intention of using it for violence at the time of his arrest, and was only going fishing that day. Sandager argued further that Keovilay demonstrated he was amenable to probation through his cooperation during the length of the investigation and advocated that he should be granted the departure in order to seek the necessary help to address his issues with substance abuse and receive mental health services.

“If his mental health issues are not addressed, his drug addiction will not only become a danger to himself, but a risk to public safety. And the prison system will become a revolving door, and his issues will never be appropriately addressed,” said Sandager.

She also stated that going forward, Keovilay would have familial support that he didn’t have before. His sister also appeared in court to speak in support of her brother, and of the trauma he had experienced as a result of the shooting.

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“My brother just needs help, and I feel strongly that sitting in prison for many years will only delay the help that he needs,” said Thipphapona Keovilay, adding that due to her recent departure from the U.S. military, she was now in a place to help her brother.

Haley requested additional time to consider the departure request in light of the information given during Monday’s proceedings. The sentencing convened Friday, and Haley stated that after much thought, she could not approve a dispositional departure, which would allow Keovilay to serve a probationary sentence instead of prison, but would allow for a durational departure from the sentencing guidelines.

“I do believe there are substantial and compelling reasons to depart from recommendation,” Haley expressed. “...Your priors are those of an addict, not a violent offender.”

Keovilay was sentenced to 33 months in a correctional facility, a departure from the recommended 60, with credit for 109 days served.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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