|Man Charged With Felony For Stealing Candy Bar|
|Written by David Greenwald|
|Wednesday, 04 May 2011 04:48|
Judge Knocks Charges Down to Misdemeanor Over DA's Objection -
A Woodland man faced petty theft, with a series of prior convictions which enhanced the charge to a felony, for stealing a candy bar from JC Penneys in the Woodland Mall.
The defendant, Ovan Taylor, apparently suffers from schizophrenia and has a long history of mental illness. Following a preliminary hearing, Judge Paul Richardson reduced the charge to a misdemeanor in the interest of justice, over the protests of Deputy DA Jennifer Davis.
Ovan Taylor was in the mall in Woodland when he allegedly walked into a store, picked up a Godiva candy bar worth $2.95 and put it in his pocket. The loss prevention official called mall security and then followed Mr. Taylor out the store and confronted him, asking for the candy bar. He asked Mr. Taylor about the bar and Mr. Taylor denied knowing what he was talking about.
Mr. Taylor began to curse at Lopez and pulled out the candy bar and make up from his back pocket and threw it at him. Taylor then ran to the movie theater. The loss prevention official called the police while following Taylor to the theater. Mr. Taylor turned around and ran toward Burlington Coat Factory, before he was detained by mall security.
The loss prevention official said on the stand on Tuesday that he felt disrespected by Mr. Taylor because of the yelling, cursing and not giving the candy back.
It was only under cross-examination that it became clear that Mr. Taylor was nervous and sweating and acting a bit weird. It was at that point when it became known that the defendant suffered from schizophrenia.
Officer Randall Krantz of the Woodland Police Department was the arresting officer who responded to the police call. The officer indicated on the stand that Mr. Taylor acknowledged taking the candy.
Defense then asked if something seemed off or wrong with Mr. Taylor, and the officer testified that he had been moving his mouth as if he were talking to himself.
Defense Attorney Amber Poston tried to see if the loss prevention official made it personal, to go after Mr. Taylor and press charges. The officer said that it was due to the circumstances, and he would want to press charges. The official felt like he was disrespected and that Mr. Taylor was not cooperating.
Defense argued to the Judge that Mr. Taylor has a history of mental issues. He has other felony cases pending and a violation of parole pending. The defense argued for reducing the charge to a misdemeanor despite the other cases, as it was only a candy bar.
Deputy DA Jennifer Davis, however, argued that it should not be reduced to a misdemeanor because of his record with the other felony cases, along with the violation of probation.
Judge Richardson argued, on the other hand, that this was just a candy bar that was worth $2.95. There was no need for this case to be a felony. He reduced it to a misdemeanor in the interest of justice.
---David M. Greenwald reporting
Wow,from what I know the prisons in California are a warehouse for the mentally ill anyhow. Most of these folks don,t know how what to do with themselves when they do get out of prison..mentally ill or not. The easiest thing for them to do is to re offend ..ie steal a candy bar and go home..ie prison. I can think of two officer contacts with the mentally ill in the last 2 years where the mentally ill person was shot and killed...so at least that didn,t happen again.This seems to be how our great prison system works..and..if your not mentally ill when you go to prison chances are that by the time you get out you will be. Not exactly a solution..just saying..
"... from what I know the prisons
"I think there is something seriously wrong with a system that would even consider putting a mentally challenged person in prison for stealing a candy bar."
I'm going to play devil's advocate here, at the risk of drawing a lot of fire. But it needs to be said just for discussion purposes. How much dollarwise would this guy have to shoplift, before jail would be justified? I'm guessing (and I understand the DA can only prosecute someone based on what the DA knows, not what the DA suspects), but I suspect this guy regularly shoplifts as a way of getting by, of surviving. But customers like you and me pay for this, by having to pay much higher prices on goods. Shoplifting is not paid for by the store, I'll guarantee you, but by customers. How much "free" merchandise do you want to let this defendant make off with before you are willing to say enough is enough? Endless amounts?
How can someone take the DA's office seriously when they choose to charge a felony for someone taking a candy bar?
How much dollarwise would this guy have to shoplift, before jail would be justified?
An inmate with that level of mental illness would be in an enhanced mental health program in prison which typically costs approx $100,000/yr. So even if he shoplifts $1,000/week, and we spend another $1,000/month in community mental health treatment for this guy, it would be $36,000 cheaper to keep him on the streets.
As for your other question, how much does he have to take, more than a candy bar. How much justifies a $50K expenditure? I don't have an exact figure but I know it's more than a candy bar.
But don't you think everyone has in their own mind what the threshold should be, and that may differ from person to person? But I tend to agree with you that one candy bar doesn't seem excessive enough to make a felony. Except it would be interesting to know what his priors were and how many...
An inmate with that level of mental illness would be in an enhanced mental health program in prison which typically costs approx $100,000/yr.
How did you come up with this figure? And how sure are you that this guy would even be eligible/get mental health services in prison? It was my understanding that prisoners rarely get the mental health services they need in prison, if ever.
Apparently the guy is only in his early 30s. Really sad case. The guy needs help, not prison.
As I said before, I'd first like to know what his priors were before passing judgment... I just feel as if I don't have enough information. But mental illness is always sad... and how do you solve the conundrum of those who are mentally ill, get the help, but won't cooperate in taking their medications. I've seen this problem myself firsthand in a case I worked on...
Are you advocating for the devil, the DA or are they both the same? Just curious!
LOL - no, not advocating for anyone. Just positing the notion that things are not always as "simple" as they may appear. Shoplifting is a bit of a quandary. How many "bites at the apple" does a shoplifter get, before jail time becomes appropriate? Suppose this defendant had a criminal record of shoplifting every week for instance over the period of a year? As I said, I would really like to know what his prior record looked like, especially bc it does not look like he is claiming insanity as a defense...
Medwoman - Thank You! I could not have said it better.