Murderer of Joshua Houlgate in 2007 denied new trial

Tribune photo by Jayson Mellom

A 20-year-old man convicted of a 2007 San Luis Obispo murder was denied a new trial Friday after his new attorney argued he had incompetent counsel during his trial.

After San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Dodie A. Harman denied the motion, she sentenced Patrick Wollett to 27 years to life in prison for the murder of Joshua Houlgate, on top of six years for assault with a deadly weapon.Wollett moved for a new trial, claiming trial attorney Greg Jacobson was incompetent.

He appeared to listen carefully to Harman as she made, and then explained, her ruling. Wollett later shook the hand of his new attorney, Tom McCormick, before being escorted in shackles by bailiffs to a holding cell.

McCormick and Wollett’s family members said the ruling would be appealed.

Wollett was convicted of murder in June along with Chad Westbrook in the shooting death of Houlgate in the Oceanaire Mobile Home Park on Orcutt Road in San Luis Obispo in 2007.

Wollett also was found guilty of assault for using a club to beat witness Sarah Lonsinger-Rey.

Houlgate’s parents, Laurence Houlgate, a retired Cal Poly philosophy professor, and Torre Houlgate- West, wrote a letter to Harman in September saying Wollett should get an appeal.

“We believe that Patrick’s culpability was not proven,” they wrote. “We think Patrick Wollett was so poorly represented by his attorney that an appeal based on attorney incompetence and neglect should be made.”

Wollett contended that Jacobson wouldn’t allow him to testify in his own defense, but Harman said that Wollett’s trial attorney had good reason to dissuade him from getting on the stand.

She cited Jacobson’s decision to avoid Wollett being asked about an allegedly intended home invasion robbery that would have made an impression on the jury of a criminal mindset.

Harman also said that text messages Wollett sent to friends would have been difficult to explain.

They reportedly stated something bad was going to happen, and Wollett told a friend he might go to jail for the rest of his life.

Harman also said McCormick’s argument that Wollett was a follower in a criminal act carried out by an older criminal was irrelevant — except in deciding his sentencing. She called him an active participant who had opportunities to stop the crime but didn’t.

A group of about 15 family members gathered outside the courtroom to express their disappointment. “I’m very disheartened the judge feels this way,” said Cynthia Allaire, Wollett’s aunt. “Chad Westbrook is the person known to have used the gun. This is a one-person crime.”

Family members held signs such as “Patrick is Innocent” and called him a bright person with a mild temperament. They said others were behind the crime, but key evidence wasn’t presented by Jacobson, who they claim never met with their client at the jail to discuss the case — only at the courthouse.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan said that the conviction was proper and that Wollett’s role of aiding and abetting the crime resulted in his conviction.

“There was no evidence of anyone else involved,” Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan also pointed to Jacobson’s cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses and said he did “a good job.”

Wollett has about 1,000 days of jail credits and can get 15 percent of his six-year assault sentence eliminated if he conducts himself with good behavior in prison.

Once the six-year sentence is completed, he’ll start serving his full 27-year sentence before eligibility for parole — unless Wollett is victorious on appeal.