Magistrate sentences burglar to 22 months in prison

Citing a defendant’s guilty plea to one burglary charge and one theft charge and his efforts to deal with his drug addiction, Magistrate Valdis Foldats sentenced James Orville Ebanks to 22 months in prison.

Ebanks, now 54, previously had pleaded guilty to both charges.

The theft occurred at a West Bay residence where Ebanks had been hired to do some work in May 2014. He used the key given to him to enter the home and then stole items valued at $500. Since he had promised to pay back the owner, but did not do so, this matter did not come to court until later in the year.

The burglary occurred in June 2014, also in West Bay. Ebanks entered a residence during daylight hours and stole items that included a cellphone, jewelry and a watch. The total value was $2,000.

The burglary case came to court in July 2014, and Ebanks applied to be admitted to the Drug Rehabilitation Court. The following month he pleaded guilty.

At the sentencing hearing earlier this week, the magistrate said the drug court team had assessed Ebanks. “Your crimes of an acquisitive nature were fueled by your addictions,” he told the defendant.

The magistrate noted that Ebanks spent time in a halfway house and was then admitted to Caribbean Haven where he did well for 18 weeks before discharging himself in April 2015.

Ebanks went back to using cocaine, and the drug court team recommended he be kept in custody because “we couldn’t let you back into the community.”

Then Ebanks did something “remarkable,” the magistrate continued. Caribbean Haven requires a three-month wait for people who leave and then want to re-apply. Ebanks had the patience and determination to wait and be re-admitted. He went back in July 2015 and was active in group sessions and helpful to his peers.

However, he then self-discharged in September 2015. This time the drug court team recommended that he take part in an outpatient program. After several weeks he told the team he did not want to do any more drug tests.

“You said you wanted to stay in the drug court, but we had exhausted our resources,” the magistrate told Ebanks. “It’s clear you don’t want to be an addict. We all know that. Your efforts at rehabilitation were genuine. You tried to change your life and you were successful for a while.”

The judge pointed out that residential burglaries violate people’s basic right to be secure in their home.

A recently issued guideline sets the starting point for burglary at three years. Because of Ebanks’s previous convictions, the magistrate raised the starting point by another six months. He gave a one-third discount for the guilty plea, reducing the 42 months to 28 months. He then gave Ebanks credit for the six months he had spent at Caribbean Haven, arriving at a final figure of 22 months.

Sentences of three months for theft and consuming cocaine were made to run concurrent.

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