Preston Oates denied new trial in Beaufort County

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJuly 7, 2014 

From left, Preston Oates sits with his attorneys, Jared Newman and Don Colongeli, after the jury announced its verdict in his trial in June, 2014.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

Preston Oates will not get a new trial in Beaufort County, but his sentence has been reduced by two years, according to a state prosecutor.

At a hearing Monday, Judge Brooks Goldsmith denied motions by Oates' attorneys to dismiss his convictions last month and give him a new trial, according to 14th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton.

Oates was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime for killing Carlos Olivera in a Christmas Eve 2010 shooting in Bluffton that erupted over a booted minivan.

For those crimes, a jury sentenced Oates to 26 years in prison.

However, Goldsmith ruled Monday that the sentence should be reduced to 24 years, agreeing with Oates' lawyers that the sentence should reflect Oates' time under house arrest, Thornton said.

"In this case, I think 24 years is a very reasonable sentence; I take no issue with it whatsoever," Thornton said.

Now the S.C. Court of Appeals also will consider the motion to dismiss Oates' voluntary manslaughter conviction, Oates' defense attorney Jared Newman said Monday.

Newman contends the jury in last month's trial should not have been given the option to convict Oates on either murder or voluntary manslaughter charges in the incident, because the attorneys agreed to drop the latter charge at the beginning of the trial.

However, on the trial's final day, Goldsmith agreed with the state's request to reinstate the manslaughter charge and said the jury could convict Oates on the lesser offense only if it could not find him guilty of murder.

"It allowed the jury to do a compromised verdict and diluted the defense," Newman said.

The S.C. Court of Appeals also will consider whether Oates acted under the state's self-defense immunity law the night of the shooting, Newman said.

More than two years ago, Newman attempted to make that case, but the courts ruled that the issue could not be taken up until the trial was over, he said. Newman filed Monday to ask the court to revisit whether Oates is protected by the state's immunity law.

The S.C. Court of Appeals has 10 days to respond to the motions, Newman said.

Monday's rulings exhaust Oates' options in circuit court in Beaufort County, Newman and Thornton said. The S.C. Attorney General's Office will assign a prosecutor to handle the case in the appellate court, Thornton said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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