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State v. Bennett

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

May 5, 2015

STATE OF MAINE
v.
THOMAS BENNETT

Argued February 10, 2015.

Page 995

Molly Butler Bailey, Esq., Strike, Goodwin & O'Brien, Portland, for appellant Thomas Bennett.

Kathryn Loftus Slattery, District Attorney, and Anne Marie Pazar, Esq., Prosecutorial District # 1, Alfred, for appellee State of Maine.

Molly Butler Bailey, Esq., for appellant Thomas Bennett.

Anne Marie Pazar, Esq., for appellee State of Maine.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

OPINION

Page 996

SAUFLEY, C.J.

[¶1] Thomas Bennett, an employee of Saco Pawn and Loan, purchased what he knew to be stolen property for resale at the pawnshop. He did not disclose the purchase when the rightful owner, the victim of a recent burglary, told Bennett that he had been recently robbed and that he was trying to locate his stolen property. Bennett then lied to a detective with the Saco Police Department when he was asked whether he had purchased any of the victim's stolen property. After a jury found Bennett guilty of theft by receiving stolen property (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 359(1)(B)(5) (2014), the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J. ) sentenced Bennett to fourteen days in jail and a $500 fine, plus applicable surcharges.

[¶2] Bennett directly appeals from his sentence. He argues that the sentence imposed by the court is illegal because it is disproportionate to the crime committed and in violation of his equal protection and due process rights. We affirm the sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] " Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the record supports the following facts." State v. Ormsby, 2013 ME 88, P 2, 81 A.3d 336. On April 26, 2013, the victim's home was burglarized, and the victim reported that, among other items, comic books, electronics,

Page 997

and a Penn Senator fishing reel were stolen. After the burglary, a Saco police officer interviewed the victim and filed a report about the incident. The victim valued the fishing reel at approximately $700.

[¶4] The next day, the victim began driving to local pawnshops looking for his stolen items. One of these pawnshops was Saco Pawn and Loan, where Bennett was employed. The victim told Bennett that he had been robbed and was searching for his missing items, specifically mentioning his fishing reel and electronics. Bennett did not tell the victim that the fishing reel was at the pawnshop.

[¶5] A detective from the Saco Police Department investigated the burglary. As part of his investigation, on or about April 29, 2013, he spoke with Bennett regarding the missing fishing reel. The detective was familiar with Bennett because he oversees the pawnshops in the Saco area. That oversight includes checking for compliance with existing regulations and monitoring the property that is purchased and then sold from pawnshops. Bennett told the detective that an individual named Arthur McCurry had come into the pawnshop looking to sell comic books, electronics, and a couple of fishing reels. Bennett alleged that he had previously purchased property from McCurry that he believed had been stolen. Bennett explicitly told the detective that he did not purchase any items from McCurry.

[¶6] Thereafter, the detective interviewed McCurry about the burglary and obtained and executed a search warrant for Saco Pawn and Loan. While executing the warrant, a police officer located a Penn Senator fishing reel wrapped in a yellow cloth bag in a wooden cabinet behind the counter. The item was photographed and taken to the Saco Police Department, where the victim identified both the cloth bag and the fishing reel as his own. Officers executing the search warrant also checked the daily logs of purchases and sales for the business to determine whether any fishing reel was listed. During the time in question, there was no record of any transaction regarding a fishing reel.[1]

[¶7] After the fishing reel was found, Bennett asked to speak with one of the detectives outside, where he admitted that he had purchased the reel from McCurry. He explained that he had been hoping McCurry would bring in more of the victim's stolen items so that he could purchase them from McCurry " in hopes of getting it all," and then have the victim pay him back for the stolen property. Bennett further explained that he did not tell anyone this because he did not want to scare McCurry off from bringing in more stolen property. The detective specifically asked Bennett if he had purchased the fishing reel before the victim had come into the shop to look for his stolen property. Bennett admitted that he had, and admitted that he did not tell the victim that he had recovered his fishing reel.

[¶8] Bennett was indicted for theft by receiving stolen property (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 359(1)(B)(4) (2014). A jury trial was held on March 18, 2014, at which Bennett testified in his own defense. At the conclusion of the one-day trial, the jury acquitted Bennett of Class C theft by receiving stolen property, 17-A M.R.S. § 359(1)(B)(4), but convicted him of the lesser included ...


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