Matthew Keith Haines, 35, pleaded guilty yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court to stealing the vehicles of two women after taking their car keys from restaurants in incidents last fall in Manchester and Westminster.
After meeting with the attorneys, Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. agreed to sentence Haines to no more than five years' imprisonment, the maximum term for one conviction on the felony charge of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.
Burns ordered a presentence investigation and scheduled sentencing for August.
Haines spoke briefly, saying he agreed to the plea because he is guilty and that he is taking medication for depression. He declined to comment afterward, as did his attorney, Erin M. Danz.
Howard County Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell Jr. prosecuted the case because Haines' father is Carroll County state Sen. Larry E. Haines, who was present for the plea bargain yesterday but did not comment.
Campbell said sentencing guidelines indicate 18 months to five years of incarceration but did not indicate what he would ask for at sentencing.
The prosecutor said the first incident occurred Sept. 23 at the House of Pasta on Main Street in Manchester. A woman said she moved away from a man who kept trying to talk to her, then found that he and her car keys missing. Campbell said the restaurant's manager would have testified that he saw the man drive off in her Saturn, and both later identified the man as Haines from photographs.
The car was recovered in Baltimore Oct. 24, Campbell said, when a city police officer stopped a man for speeding and for driving without a front tag. The driver said he had rented the car for $15 for two hours from the supposed owner, whom he later identified from photographs as Haines.
The second theft occurred Nov. 20 at Fiesta's restaurant on Route 140, the prosecutor said. A couple who knew Haines said he apparently took a woman's keys from her purse while she was playing a video machine.
The woman found that Haines and her keys were missing and that her 1995 Toyota truck was gone from the parking lot, the prosecutor said. The couple gave state police Haines' address, in the 100 block of East Main St. in Westminster, where the truck was recovered with bloodstains in it.
At the time, Haines told police that he had been intoxicated at Fiesta's and remembered being taken to an apartment complex, where someone went inside while he stepped out to urinate and was approached by a group and beaten with a stick, Campbell said. Witnesses in both restaurantswould have testified that Haines did not appear to be intoxicated, Campbell said.
Campbell said that at sentencing, he will ask for restitution, which would amount to about $100 in the Westminster case. The Saturn was a total loss, and dry cleaning and money orders from the owner's business, worth several hundred dollars, were missing.