Under state sentencing laws, Jacobia Grimes, who is accused of stealing $31 worth of candy, must serve 20 years in prison because of previous convictions for the same crime, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
Grimes has been arrested a dozen times since 2000. Prosecutors and even his defense attorney have described him as a drug addict, and Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich has suggested that the two sides work together to get around state sentencing laws requiring he serve at least two decades in prison.
“I agree he has to pay the consequences, even though it’s candy,” Zibilich said at a hearing Friday. “I would like to see some sort of split sentence.” Regarding Louisiana’s sentencing laws, he asked prosecutors: “Do we have to be married to every single syllable of this book?”
Grimes is currently jailed for violating terms of his $25,000 bond agreement after testing positive for drugs. His trial is scheduled for May 26. He was arrested in February allegedly stuffing candy into his clothing at a Dollar General store.
Assistant District Attorney Iain Dover said he didn’t see how to reduce the sentence Grimes is facing.
“I can’t see how we get there under the law,” Dover said. “It’s not the state’s fault. It’s this guy’s fault. He’s had a chance. He’s had the opportunities.”
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, whose office made the plea offer and who would ultimately make a sentencing recommendation if Grimes were convicted, said nobody has suggested a 20-year sentence. In a letter to the New Orleans Advocate, he slammed the newspaper’s coverage of the case and underscored Grimes’ criminal history.
“The Advocate cannot point to a single case in which my office has sentenced a shoplifter to a 20-year sentence, so it simply manufactured a controversy,” the letter reads in part. “Since 1996, Mr. Grimes has been arrested 24 times. He has five convictions for theft as well as five other convictions for crimes such as illegal possession of stolen things, unauthorized use of a moveable, possession of drug paraphernalia, obscenity and distribution of false drugs.”
Not everyone is happy with Louisiana’s sentencing laws, which are among the toughest in the nation.
“In Louisiana, about 160 habitual offenders whose most recent crime involved nothing more harmful than marijuana are serving 20 years or more,” the Times-Picayune newspaper reported in 2012. “More than 300 people serving life without parole in Louisiana have never been convicted of a violent crime.”