- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2001

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge yesterday reduced the sentence of a five-time convicted burglar to time served and sent him to live in an unsecured house in North Carolina as part of a drug-treatment program that emphasizes "interpersonal communication skills.
Judge DeLawrence Beards ruling allowed Craig Jones to leave jail yesterday after serving a year, instead of the 15 years to 20 years that state sentencing guidelines call for on charges of first-degree burglary, felony theft and malicious destruction of property.
Jones, 32, of Silver Spring pleaded guilty to the charges last summer. There was no plea agreement with prosecutors. At the time of the burglary, he was on probation for a car-theft conviction in Montgomery County, and on parole for three burglary convictions in Indiana.
Jones was sent to the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers Inc. (TROSA) in Durham, N.C., a nonprofit "therapeutic community." Founder Kevin McDonald told The Washington Times yesterday that "the basis of the program is to empower the residents to run different things."
Male and female substance abusers live in houses throughout the city during the program, which "emphasizes vocational training, education and interpersonal communication skills," according to a letter to Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The reconsideration of Jones sentence is the latest in a series of rulings by judges that have frustrated prosecutors and outraged victims.
The Montgomery County States Attorneys Office argued against Jones release during the hearing yesterday, but officials from the office declined to comment about the case outside of what was outlined in court records.
Observers of Maryland courts have noted that prosecutors often vehemently disagree with such reconsiderations but wont speak out for fear of reprisal from judges.
Mr. Beard, who has served as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, has given a number of light sentences to convicts who carried out particularly horrific crimes.
In 1999, he gave an 18-month sentence to a parochial school teacher who pleaded guilty to sex crimes against a male student. The male teacher admitted fondling the childs genitals and showing him homosexual pornography. Mr. Beard then suspended all but 90 days of the sentence.
Child advocacy groups criticized the judge in 1998 for the sentence he gave a woman who forced her boyfriends 5-year-old son to eat hot peppers and drink whisky. The boys fingernails were removed and his penis was cut during 22-hour torture sessions. Mr. Beard gave Alba Ingrid Scarpelli a 27-year prison sentence for the crimes, but reduced it to 18 months.
Last year, Mr. Beard gave an 18-month sentence to a man found guilty of assault after his son was found with first- and second-degree burns on his legs, buttocks and genitals. Guidelines called for a sentence of six to 10 years.
In November, Mr. Beard sentenced Jones to 12 years in prison, but Public Defender Audrey Creyton swayed the judge yesterday.
Jones entered the victims Bethesda home at about noon on March 31 last year and was stealing property when the homeowner returned and went to sleep on the couch. The homeowner was awakened when Jones came downstairs and fled the home.
A Montgomery County police sergeant on his way to work spotted Jones as he boarded a bus. Police pulled the bus over and found Jones with $550 in cash, a two-dollar bill and a Bulova watch, the items missing from the burgled home. The homeowner identified Jones.
Mr. Beard and Miss Creyton did not return messages left at their offices seeking comment yesterday.
The Durham, N.C., drug-treatment center where Jones is going provides a minimum two-year substance abuse program for men and women. They live in 22 houses throughout the city and learn trade skills on a 13-acre dairy farm. Mr. McDonald said the program, which he has run since 1994, "is really structured," but there is no security to keep participants at the houses.
"We will not physically restrain a person from leaving," he said.
There have been only four violent incidents connected with the program over the years; three involved slapping or hitting and one involved a psychotic man who committed assault with a crowbar. No one was injured in that attack, Mr. Mcdonald said.
Those in the program perform work and volunteer service in the community. They gradually gain privileges during their stay, and many participate in aftercare services.
There is a 33 percent graduation rate for the program, Mr. McDonald said.
"Is that a bad rate? I dont think so with this crowd."


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