Mr. Ferguson was previously convicted back in 1982 for three separate counts of residential burglary, at the time he was age 25 years old. Six years later he pled guilty to a single count of 1st degree burglary. Finally in 1995, he pled guilty to a single count of petty theft with a prior.
The prosecution argued he was eligible for a third strike based on his background and prospect. First, they argued that he is unemployed and unmarried. He is a repeat offender and made no claims to education or job skills. Furthermore he is taking no responsibility for a substance abuse process.
Additionally, he has been in custody for 22 years, six months, and six days in the last 27 years. They argued, “defendant cannot function as a productive citizen in society.” Moreover, “[Mr. Ferguson] made no effort whatsoever to becoming a law-abiding citizen.”
Those arguments notwithstanding, both incidents in December of 2008 that led to the third strike
On December 4, 2008, Woodland Police Officer Scot Todd responded to a convenience store at 122 E. Main Street. The victim, a woman, was distracted when her son was making a mess and Mr. Ferguson had handed her a napkin. She left the store but came back when she discovered her wallet missing. Officer Todd spoke to the victim who stated that she had placed her wallet on the counter and when she turned her attention back to the counter her wallet was allegedly missing.
Upon reviewing the surveillance tape from the location, Officer Todd allegedly saw an individual standing near the woman at the time her wallet allegedly disappeared.
Officer Scott in testimony described the video, “Mr. Ferguson then turned towards the camera, and all you see is a slight—where he’s pulling his pants out and shoving an unknown object down his pants.”
There were other camera angles and pictures too used in the exhibit. Then there was a photo lineup conducted where the woman correctly identified Mr. Ferguson. Surveillance depicts individual as Ferguson placed something inside of the front of his pants.
According to Officer Todd, “the surveillance tape does not depict the item that the individual allegedly identification as Mr. Ferguson placed inside the front of his pants. Police report does not obtain monetary value for the wallet.”
Yet, the DA has chosen to proceed with a pretty theft charge, even though the wallet was less than $400.
Ten days later, Mr. Ferguson was involved in another minor incident. According to the report of Officer Jameson of the Woodland PD on Dec. 14, 2008, Officer Jameson responded to a grocery store located at 157 Main St. Upon arrival, he made contact with the Loss Prevention Officer from Nugget Market in Woodland.
The man allegedly saw an individual placed $3.99 worth of shredded cheese into his pants and leave the store rendering proper payment. Mr. Ferguson was subsequently detained by Mr. Austin . At the time of Mr. Ferguson’s arrest, he possessed $9.00, and would have been able to pay for the cheese he allegedly stole.
Oddly enough he paid for everyone else except for the cheese that was in his pants. When confronted by the Loss Prevention Officer, Ferguson attempted to flee and then was taken down to the ground. The Nugget Market worker described Ferguson as “embarrassed and remorseful.” The cheese had only cost 3.99, and he had 9.00 dollars on him.
Mr. Ferguson has been battling mental illness for a number of years. He is attempting to control the ill-effects of this mental disorder. His mental disorder is responsible for this mania, depression, and mood instability. Because of his mental disorder problems he has come to a substance abuse problem, which is apparently under control.
The prosecution describes him as a man that has refused to accept responsibility, that cannot be a productive citizen, and that remains a serious threat to society.
Given his long history that includes long breaks during which he was in custody, the DA has the discretion as to whether or not to charge the cases as felonies which would count as strikes or misdemeanors. History suggests it might be reasonable to charge as a felony with prison time. However, the fact that his crimes are becoming less violent and serious, now committing petty thefts from businesses and wallets (a theft of opportunity) rather than residential burglaries mitigates the case and lends itself to the belief that he should not receive life for the felony even if it is concluded that it is a felony.
Sentencing will occur on March 1, at which point more details of the case may emerge.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
Vivian Nguyen contributed to this story