A man is facing 20 years to life in prison after being accused of stealing $31 worth of candy bars from a New Orleans Dollar General store in December, the New Orleans Advocate reports.
On Thursday, 34-year-old Jacobia Grimes appeared in court for an arraignment and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the Advocate, Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich mused out loud, “Isn’t this a little over the top?” regarding the “multiple bill” threat that will leave little to the discretion of a judge.
According to the report, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office decided to charge Grimes under a statute that makes the alleged candy theft a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. The statute is meant for people who have been convicted of “theft of goods” at least twice before.
Grimes, the Advocate reports, has five prior theft convictions, which categorizes him as a “quad” offender under the state’s habitual-offender law, thus making him eligible for 20 years to life behind bars if convicted.
“It’s not even funny,” the judge said. “Twenty years to life for a Snickers bar, or two or three or four.”
Grimes’ attorneys, Miles Swanson and Michael Kennedy, said that his prior convictions, occurring 2001-2010, were for similar shoplifting stints. All of the thefts involved less than $500 worth of items. Swanson argued that Grimes could have been charged under a different statute with a state misdemeanor.
“I just think it points to the absurdity of the multiple-billing statute. They’re spending their time to lock someone up for years over $31 worth of candy. It’s ridiculous,” Swanson said.
“It’s unconscionably excessive to threaten someone with 20 years to life for candy,” Kennedy added.
Read more at the New Orleans Advocate.