An 18-year-old Oak Bluffs man charged with unarmed burglary, entering a building in the night time and larceny will not go to jail after admitting to sufficient facts in the case, according to court documents.
Instead, Deshawn James, who plays on the varsity basketball team at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, will be on probation for two years, perform 30 hours of community service and make restitution to his victims.
In December, James admitted to police that he had taken cash on multiple occasions from an unlocked home on Grovedale Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
According to the written report of Oak Bluffs Police Sgt. Michael Marchand, police were called to the home Dec. 5 to investigate “three separate incidents when different stashes of money were taken” from inside the house occupied by homeowners Kate Shanor and Bob Stafford and tenant Courtney Jew.
In late October, the residents told Marchand, after $750 in cash was left on a kitchen counter overnight only $20 remained in the morning. A month or so later another $500 was taken from a bedroom, the occupants reported.
In all, Marchand wrote, the residents estimated about $2,000 was taken from the home.
In December, his report continues, Shanor purchased a Web surveillance camera online for $100 and set it up Dec. 5 before the residents went to work.
She called police after the resulting video showed a young black man entering the home at around 3 p.m. According to Marchand's report, although officers did not recognize the person in the video:
“I showed a copy of the video footage to a couple MVRHS students. Both students identified the male as Deshawn. Neither knew his last name. They both knew that Deshawn played basketball on the boys varsity team."
Marchand and another officer drove to the high school at the end of basketball practice and asked coach Mike Joyce if they could speak with Deshawn, who agreed to talk and accompanied them to the police station for questioning, Marchand wrote:
"James agreed to speak with us aout his involvement in the breaks and freely waived his rghts. He also requested that the interview be recorded."
In the interview, Marchand reports:
James admitted to first entering the house just before Thanksgiving around midnight. He walked in the side door that was unlocked and entered the kitchen. He observed a pile of cash on the kitchen counter and immediately left the house. James said the total was between $700 and $800.
James said he took the money to buy food for himself. James explained that his father passed away a few years ago and his mother died of cancer last year; He is living on Martha’s Vineyard with his older brother who is a part time painter. James said he has to support himself and buy his own food and clothing.
As the interview continued, James told police he had entered the house twice more, once leaving empty-handed and once that same day when he was recorded by the surveillance cam.
James said he entered the house through an unlocked door and walked up to the second floor bedroom. He located $200 in the top bureau drawer, and he found $39 on the top of the bureau in a case. James said after he found the cash he left the house.
James was very cooperative and apologetic during questioning. He seemed genuinely remorseful for his actions. James completed a witness statement form, describing each time he entered the house looking for money.
Due to the fact that James was cooperative, I chose not to arrest him. James and I discussed him seeking help from the food pantry, the church, school guidance and the state for a possible EBT card to purchase necessities.
James told me he still had $239 that he had stolen today from Grovedale Road. I counted the money and placed it in an evidence bag and placed the money in the blue evidence lockers.
On 12/7/12, using investigative tools, the police department observed a photo of James on his Facebook page. The photo was posted on the internet on October 23, 2012. The photo is of James holding what appears to be several hundred dollars, fanning the bills in a flashy manner with his middle finger raised.
Due to the fact that James is unemployed, the fact that James said he needed to steal money to buy food, the timing of the post, the time of the burglary, it is likely the money being flashed is the money that was stolen.
At that time, Marchand wrote, a criminal application was completed charging James with unarmed burglary, breaking and entering and larceny. A charge of entering a building in the night time for a felony — which could bring 10-year prison sentence — was subsequently reduced to misdemeanor trespassing, according to court documents.
Several of James's teachers in the alternative program at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School interceded for the teenager, writing letters to the court that described him as a promising young man who had made a mistake on his road to self-sufficiency.
“I believe what he did was in desperation," wrote school nurse Linda Leonard. ”It is my belief that this child has not had the support and are that my own children have had in their lives. He made a bad mistake which it is my belief he sincerely regrets.”
Social worker Allison Ritts wrote,
I knew Deshawn came from a difficult childhood wrought with hardship and devoid of consistent upervision and nurturance, but I did not have a comlete sense of the severity of the sruggle Deshawn was facing.
It was not until I heard of the charges filed against him that I realized the full extent of Deshawn’s desperation and need. I did not realize that Deshawn was left on his own to feed and support himself when he moved to Martha’s Vineyard. As a full time student, this was not possible.
He was stranded, alone, hopeless, and hungry.
Ritts told the court that James's "attendance is superb and he has no disciplinary record,” and that "he has been referred for services at the Vineyard Health Care Access Program and at Island Counseling Center at Martha's Vineyard Community Services to access food stamps, health insurance, and counseling.
"Deshawn is also working to earn money to repay the money he took from the residence," Ritts wrote.
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