An Oregon man who entered a Bertsch Tract home last year while high on drugs, fought the homeowner and then ran away with some property was sentenced on Thursday to two years in San Quentin after pleading guilty to burglary.
Robert Snyder, 40, of Brookings, was convicted of residential burglary with a person present as well as for failing to appear to his trial last August, both felony charges. He was sentenced to eight months in state prison for the failure to appear charge after he finishes his two-year term, and he'll serve 85 percent of the sentence because of credits for time already served. Probation was denied.
During the sentencing, Snyder's defense lawyer, Dale Trigg, said that Snyder had gotten wrapped up in a drug community and his life had "spiraled out of control." He went on to say that even on the day of the burglary Snyder had been under the influence of drugs for days.
"When he was arrested there was actually a photograph taken of a very large bruise from an injection wound into his arm," Trigg said.
These factors, he argued, should amount to a set of unusual circumstances that would justify probation.
"This is one of those cases where we have a severe drug problem that impacts our community and we feel that society best be served if Mr. Snyder had help for his drug addiction problem," Trigg said. "That can't be accomplished through a prison commitment but could be through residential inpatient treatment," he said, noting that Snyder had already been accepted to such a treatment program.
However, neither this nor an apology letter Snyder read to the court that requested leniency persuaded Judge Chris Doehle he deserved probation.
"The defendant's a conman," Deputy District Attorney Todd Zocchi said before Snyder read his letter. "He's going to try to con you."
Zocchi referred to Snyder's history with meth, as well as the interview Snyder gave detectives when he was arrested, as entirely inconsistent with the letter that Snyder read and reasons that the judge shouldn't grant probation.
"When this court is considering unusual circumstances, the court should realize that the defendant is lying to you," Zocchi said, going on to remind the court how Snyder demonstrated what kind of character he had when he failed to show up to his jury trial in August.
Zocchi also brought up how Snyder is charged with three new felonies allegedly committed in December in Josephine County when he was on the lam: identity theft, mail theft, and possession of methamphetamine. Snyder will be extradited to Oregon to face these charges.
"This is a defendant who comes in here, acts smooth, calm, like he's just an innocent guy, but he's really just a con man," Zocchi said. "This was a very serious offense,"
Annreta Donaldson, deputy probation officer, agreed with Zocchi and also recommended that probation not be granted.
Then Snyder read his letter:
"I'm very sorry for what happened that day," Snyder read. "I'd never been in trouble before in my life - for 38 years I'd been clean and out of trouble until I started doing meth. I'm addicted to meth. I don't want it anymore, it has hurt me. It has damaged my life."
But Doehle didn't buy it, bringing up the fact that she had given Snyder a chance to prove himself before but he blew it when he didn't show up for trial and instead went out and allegedly committed new crimes.
"If I were to find unusual circumstances for every person who came before me and indicated that they'd committed crimes because of their substance abuse issues or because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs our jails would be a very unpopulated place." Doehle said. "I cannot find any reason to believe why I should follow what you're telling me today."
Reach Aaron West at email@example.com.