N.Y. thief talks his way out of prison Inmate says he's eager to pay back victims, judge gives probation

December 18, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A fast-talking New Yorker who doesn't like Maryland's prisons caught a break yesterday from Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who agreed to reduce a six-year sentence for theft involving a tow truck to probation.

Vincent J. Decicco, 37, of Kensington, N.Y., was convicted last year of theft for failing to deliver the tow truck to two Westminster businessmen, and Burns sentenced him to serve six years of a 10-year term.

He would not have been eligible for release until August 2000, said Judson K. Larrimore, a senior public defender.

At a sentence-modification hearing before Burns yesterday, Jerome J. Joyce, Carroll's assistant state's attorney, objected to reducing Decicco's prison time.

"We've had a lot of trouble with Mr. Decicco," he said. "He was arrested in Texas trying to sell a Ryder truck, altering public records. He victimized Carroll County residents for a substantial amount."

"I take absolute responsibility for what I did," Decicco told the judge. He said he needs to leave prison and work to pay back his victims.

He said his 16-year-old-son in New York won't answer his letters and can't visit him in prison, because the youth needs dialysis every few days for a kidney condition. He said he has been matched "97 to 98 percent" as a kidney donor for his son, if a transplant from a cadaver does not work.

Prison worse than jail

Decicco, who had been housed at the state prison in Hagerstown, said, "I have been stabbed and put on 24-hour lockdown," placed in a single cell, with two showers a week and brief opportunities to walk in a cage.

"Oh, I did time in county jails: 90 days here, 90 days there. I did four months once in the Dutchess County [N.Y.] jail," he told the judge, mentioning a record to 1980 for bad checks and possessing stolen property in his hometown. "There is no comparison: What happens to you in the county jail is nothing compared to prison."

Decicco said he doesn't need jail to earn a high school degree -- he has a two-year college degree -- and has no drug or alcohol addictions to kick.

What he needs is to work and meet his court-ordered obligations, he said. He owes $416 restitution in a Florida case, the Maryland restitution and an outstanding forgery detainer from Virginia -- where he plans to find work as a car salesman.

He'll avoid trouble, he said, because "I'm going to stay away from getting in business on my own. I'll go to work for a truck dealership -- I'm a good salesman. I have awards from Ford, Peterbilt." Decicco has kept up with the business by reading trade journals in prison -- and had a stack of articles at the defense table.

'Maybe he has learned'

"I remember this case well," Burns said.

"I have the feeling maybe he has learned something," the judge said in agreeing to reduce the sentence.

He told Decicco the full 10-year term awaits if he violates the conditions of his release, and placed him on five years' probation.

At Decicco's jury trial last year, prosecutors said David Stewart, of Stew's Automotive on Gorsuch Road, planned to buy a tow truck from Decicco, who had advertised in a trade journal. Stewart and another man sent Decicco $5,000 in July 1994, and two more checks for $10,000 each Feb. 4, 1995.

The checks were cashed, but Decicco never delivered the truck, according to testimony. At sentencing, he was ordered to pay restitution.

As to that restitution, Decicco said, "I've given it a lot of thought. What happened is he gave me the money, no question he gave me the money for the truck. Virginia will put me on work release and take a quarter of what I make. They won't take someone with the potential to earn money and put me to sweeping sidewalks.

"I've got good opportunities," he said, naming a major dealership and predicting he'd earn $3,000 to $3,300 a month.

"Thank you -- thank you again," he said as the hearing ended.

Pub Date: 12/18/98

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