- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2016

A repeat shoplifter in New Orleans could face 20 years to life in prison after he allegedly pocketed $31 worth of candy bars from a Dollar General store last year.

Jacobia Grimes, 34, pleaded not guilty in court Thursday to the Dec. 9 incident. Orleans Parish prosecutors charged Mr. Grimes under a statute that boosts the alleged candy theft to a felony. The statute applies to people who have been convicted of “theft of goods” at least twice before, the New Orleans Advocate reported.

“Isn’t this a little over the top?” Judge Franz Zibilich wondered aloud Thursday, the Advocate reported.

“It’s not even funny,” the judge added. “Twenty years to life for a Snickers bar, or two or three or four.”

Mr. Grimes has five prior theft convictions, making him a “quad” offender under the state’s habitual-offender law, the Advocate reported. Mr. Grimes’ attorneys, Miles Swanson and Michael Kennedy, said his prior guilty pleas were for similar shoplifting attempts. Mr. Grimes reportedly stayed out of trouble for two years before walking into the Dollar General.

Kevin Kane, of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a libertarian think tank, said Mr. Grimes’ case signaled the need for a thorough review.

“It’s obviously an example of some of the situations that you inevitably end up seeing when you have some of these habitual-offender laws,” Mr. Kane told the Advocate. “There’s no perfect solution. We always face this dilemma: Do you make sentences very flexible and run the risk of people who have done something bad not getting tough enough sentences, or do you make them very rigid?”

Mr. Grimes, who also faces a charge of drug paraphernalia possession, is free on $5,000 bond, the Advocate reported. He is next due in court Wednesday.

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