Columbia man sentenced to 18 months for part in car theft ring

October 13, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A fourth member of a theft ring alleged to have stolen more than 20 vehicles in Columbia last winter was sentenced to 18 months in prison yesterday in Howard Circuit Court.

Keith Richard Burton, 18, of Columbia, also was given an additional 18-month prison term for a drug charge that prosecutors said is unrelated to the vehicle thefts.

Burton pleaded guilty to four counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle and one count of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine before Judge Raymond Kane Jr.

The prosecution dropped multiple counts of theft, attempted theft, malicious destruction and additional counts of unauthorized use as part of the plea agreement.

Judge Kane sentenced Burton to four years in prison for each of the unauthorized use charges, but suspended all but 18 months of the sentences. The judge then sentenced Burton to four years in prison for drug charge and suspended all but 18 months of the term.

Burton, who will begin serving the prison terms in two weeks, must serve the sentences in the state Division of Corrections. He will be eligible for parole after serving about nine months of the total three-year prison term, under state parole guidelines.

In addition, Burton must complete five years of supervised probation and pay a total of $1,981 in restitution to seven victims whose vehicles were damaged after they were stolen.

As part of the plea agreement, Burton will be permitted to ask Judge Kane for a reduced sentence in January 1995 -- after serving about 15 months of his sentences.

Assistant State's Attorney Daniel Vaccaro said he will not oppose a sentence reduction as long as Burton does not cause any trouble while in prison.

Judge Kane, however, said he cannot agree to reduce Burton's sentence at this point. "I don't know what's going to happen between now and January 1995," he said.

The judge noted, however, that he will permit Burton to withdraw from the plea agreement he accepted yesterday, leaving his attorney and the prosecution to work out a new agreement.

Burton pleaded guilty to charges alleging that he was using three Jeep Cherokees and a Chevrolet Blazer that were stolen from Columbia on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26.

In addition, county police officers serving a search warrant at Burton's home in the 8900 block of Footed Ridge found 6.3 grams of cocaine under his bed last April.

The prosecution contends that Burton belonged to a club called the Low Riders, members of which stole 23 vehicles and attempted to steal six others last December and January.

Most of the vehicles stolen by the group were four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokees and Chevrolet Blazers.

Some vehicles were taken on joy-rides to Lake Elkhorn in Columbia's Owen Brown village, where the participants would play what they called "crash-up derby" and "bumper cars," according to police.

Adam Matthew Fattori, 19, of Columbia was sentenced last month to two years in prison for the thefts. In August, Alexi Martinez, 18, of Columbia was sentenced to one year in prison for his role.

A fourth member, Charles William Danzer, 19, of Columbia, will be sentenced in November after pleading guilty to charges in September for his role in the thefts.

A fifth defendant, a 16-year-old boy, was prosecuted in juvenile court. The outcomes of juvenile cases are not disclosed.

Two other members of the club -- including the alleged leader of the theft ring, Christopher James Peca, 18, of Columbia -- are scheduled for a Circuit Court trials in November.

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