MILLERSBURG -- A Holmesville man was sentenced to six months in jail for his role in the June break-in to a local church.
Gage T. Stevens, 20, of 305 S. Market St., previously pleaded guilty in Holmes County Common Pleas Court to a single count of breaking and entering. In exchange for his guilty plea, the state agreed to dismiss a related charge of petty theft.
Defense attorney Jeff Kellogg said Stevens has admitted to his crime, but, prior to participating in a presentence interview with an adult probation officer, he never said why he did it -- to purchase marijuana.
While earlier disclosure could have allowed Kellogg to file for treatment in lieu of conviction, Stevens, who "was embarrassed and ashamed about his drug issue," preventing him from seeking intervention. Nevertheless, Stevens was prepared to accept his punishment, said Kellogg, asking the court to consider work release should a jail term be imposed.
"If he stays away from drugs, you'll never see him again," said Kellogg.
Stevens said a friend, who used a key code to enter the church, talked him into committing the crime.
But, "You don't do this without some punishment," said Judge Robert Rinfret, adding, "This is stupid stuff. People have their right to feel safe in their homes, garages, churches. This can't continue."
He sentenced Stevens to nine months in prison, but immediately suspended the prison term in favor of three years of community control sanctions, to include 180 days in jail, with work release, and 50 hours of community service annually. He also was ordered to pay all court costs, the fees and expenses of his court-appointed attorney and $150 in restitution.
While Rinfret told Stevens he could work his way out of jail early, he also warned him, "If you screw up, you're looking at nine months in prison. Physically, you don't want to go to prison."
The charges stemmed from the June break-in to a church located along state Route 241. From inside a cabinet in the office, staff reported there was missing $1,800 in checks and $8,000 cash, according to Chief Deputy Richard Haun of the Holmes County Sheriff's Office.
Both Stevens and his juvenile codefendant, who was charged in Holmes County Juvenile Court, were identified through a tip to the sheriff's office, said Haun.
Only $150 of the stolen cash could be tied to Stevens.