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County man only serves fraction of prison sentence

CARTER COUNTY, Ky.- What was supposed to be a five-year prison sentence that would keep a violent man behind bars has turned out to be a cruel joke, the man's victim said.

Kentucky Department of Corrections officials confirmed last week that a Kitts Hill man who pleaded guilty in April to severely beating his ex-wife has been released from a commonwealth prison after serving a little more than three months of his five-year sentence.

John Wright, 35, was released on shock probation July 20.

Jamey Howard, Wright's parole officer, said Wright is living in Ashland. Howard said he was not sure of the circumstances of Wright's release but typically, a probation of this nature is arranged when the plea agreement is made between the defense counsel and the prosecutor.

Carter County Commonwealth's Attorney David Flatt was not available for comment despite repeated phone calls.

Wright's victim, Rachel Williamson, said she was not aware of any such arrangements and thought a five-year prison sentence meant that Wright would serve a term considerably longer than three months.

"I feel cheated," Williamson said. "I feel cheated by the whole Kentucky system, cheated on the whole situation. I feel like I have no rights in this."

What is shock probation?

Jonathan Hall, offender information supervisor for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said it is simply a form of early release that requires the approval of the judge in the court where the sentencing was handed down.

"It happens fairly often," Hall said. "There are certain conditions that must be met. It is supervised probation. I'm not sure what the conditions are for this person."

Wright pleaded guilty to second-degree assault during his trial in Carter County Circuit Court.

If he had not pleaded guilty on that one charge, he could have received 45 years in prison for the numerous counts of wanton endangerment and criminal mischief he faced.

He was arrested in 2002 after he ran Williamson's car off the road while she was traveling in Carter County, and then beating her so severely he broke a cheekbone and dislocated an eye. The couple's children witnessed the attack.

Wright is well-known to local authorities. He spent nine months in federal prison last year after he pleaded guilty in connection with a money order scheme. He faces additional charges in Boyd County, Ky., for an attack that took place there.