Man Charged With Felony For Stealing Candy Bar

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godivaJudge Knocks Charges Down to Misdemeanor Over DA’s Objection –

A Woodland man faced petty theft, with a series of prior convictions which enhanced the charge to a felony, for stealing a candy bar from JC Penneys in the Woodland Mall. 

The defendant, Ovan Taylor, apparently suffers from schizophrenia and has a long history of mental illness.  Following a preliminary hearing, Judge Paul Richardson reduced the charge to a misdemeanor in the interest of justice, over the protests of Deputy DA Jennifer Davis.

Ovan Taylor was in the mall in Woodland when he allegedly walked into a store, picked up a Godiva candy bar worth $2.95 and put it in his pocket.  The loss prevention official called mall security and then followed Mr. Taylor out the store and confronted him, asking for the candy bar. He asked Mr. Taylor about the bar and Mr. Taylor denied knowing what he was talking about.

Mr. Taylor began to curse at Lopez and pulled out the candy bar and make up from his back pocket and threw it at him. Taylor then ran to the movie theater. The loss prevention official called the police while following Taylor to the theater. Mr. Taylor turned around and ran toward Burlington Coat Factory, before he was detained by mall security.

The loss prevention official said on the stand on Tuesday that he felt disrespected by Mr. Taylor because of the yelling, cursing and not giving the candy back.

It was only under cross-examination that it became clear that Mr. Taylor was nervous and sweating and acting a bit weird.  It was at that point when it became known that the defendant suffered from schizophrenia. 

Officer Randall Krantz of the Woodland Police Department was the arresting officer who responded to the police call.  The officer indicated on the stand that Mr. Taylor acknowledged taking the candy.

Defense then asked if something seemed off or wrong with Mr. Taylor, and the officer testified that he had been moving his mouth as if he were talking to himself.

Defense Attorney Amber Poston tried to see if the loss prevention official made it personal, to go after Mr. Taylor and press charges. The officer said that it was due to the circumstances, and he would want to press charges. The official felt like he was disrespected and that Mr. Taylor was not cooperating.

Defense argued to the Judge that Mr. Taylor has a history of mental issues. He has other felony cases pending and a violation of parole pending.  The defense argued for reducing the charge to a misdemeanor despite the other cases, as it was only a candy bar.

Deputy DA Jennifer Davis, however, argued that it should not be reduced to a misdemeanor because of his record with the other felony cases, along with the violation of probation.

Judge Richardson argued, on the other hand, that this was just a candy bar that was worth $2.95.  There was no need for this case to be a felony.  He reduced it to a misdemeanor in the interest of justice.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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22 thoughts on “Man Charged With Felony For Stealing Candy Bar”

  1. tyghestorm

    Wow,from what I know the prisons in California are a warehouse for the mentally ill anyhow. Most of these folks don,t know how what to do with themselves when they do get out of prison..mentally ill or not. The easiest thing for them to do is to re offend ..ie steal a candy bar and go home..ie prison. I can think of two officer contacts with the mentally ill in the last 2 years where the mentally ill person was shot and killed…so at least that didn,t happen again.This seems to be how our great prison system works..and..if your not mentally ill when you go to prison chances are that by the time you get out you will be. Not exactly a solution..just saying..

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “The easiest thing for them to do is to re offend ..ie steal a candy bar and go home..ie prison.”

    I think this is unlikely. First, I don’t think he was in a mind to be that calculating when he stole a candy bar. Second, who would think that stealing a candy bar would land one in prison anyway? So I don’t buy that explanation.

  3. JayTee

    I think there is something seriously wrong with a system that would even consider putting a mentally challenged person in prison for stealing a candy bar. No wonder we keep having to build new prisons.

  4. Rifkin

    [i]”… from what I know the prisons [s]in California[/s] [b]and jails all across the United States[/b] are a warehouse for the mentally ill [s]anyhow[/s] [b]in large part because we have this strange notion that people with schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders [u]choose[/u] to forego treatment. So we deal with them in the legal system as if they are rational adults who chose to make bad choices.[/b]

    Fixed.

    P.S. The only good solution is to force treatment upon them. In most cases this can be done without lock-up. But it must be mandatory. Voluntary equals a tortured life at best for the patient and devastation for his loved ones.

  5. Rifkin

    [i]”I think there is something seriously wrong with a system that would even consider putting a mentally challenged person in prison for stealing a candy bar.”[/i]

    For the record, the term ‘mentally challenged’ normally refers to someone with deficient IQ ([url]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3xyJDLYT0Bg/ScaX23e1v3I/AAAAAAAAB6Y/LZ3msI70lSA/s400/mentally_challenged_socially_superior.jpg[/url]). What we used to call ‘a retard.’ This person, Ovan Taylor, as far as I know, is not ‘mentally challenged.’ He has, instead, a mental illness (schizophrenia), which is “characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.” (Source ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia[/url]).)

  6. Iyah

    Thank goodness for the Judge. Unfortunately, the DA’s office has not shown good rational when deciding how or when to pursue charges. We need more Judges in Yolo to behave like this one, instead of letting the DA’s office run roughshod over people.

  7. FairJustice

    This case was a complete waste of tax payer’s money! They could have used that time and effort on real cases. Even though this was pretty hilarious and completely embarrassing on the DA’s office. Someone needs to post on their website. (If they have one)

  8. E Roberts Musser

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, at the risk of drawing a lot of fire. But it needs to be said just for discussion purposes. How much dollarwise would this guy have to shoplift, before jail would be justified? I’m guessing (and I understand the DA can only prosecute someone based on what the DA knows, not what the DA suspects), but I suspect this guy regularly shoplifts as a way of getting by, of surviving. But customers like you and me pay for this, by having to pay much higher prices on goods. Shoplifting is not paid for by the store, I’ll guarantee you, but by customers. How much “free” merchandise do you want to let this defendant make off with before you are willing to say enough is enough? Endless amounts?

    What if this defendant has an intractable and long record of disobeying the law, including shoplifting on a regular basis. Suppose he has taken up inordinate amounts of law enforcement’s time with crime after crime after crime, bc he refuses to/is not willing to/cannot get help for his mental illness?

    How much in the way of new taxes are you willing to pay to give this guy the mental health services he needs? We have just seen mental health services cut to the bone (many helpless elderly are going completely untended), so that jail becomes a de facto warehouse for the mentally ill. And the fact of the matter is, those w mental illness suck up inordinate amounts of resources, bc their requirements are so monumental. One way or the other, you will spend huge amounts of taxpayer dollars on a single mentally ill individual. An individual who may very well refuse treatment, even if it is available, as Rich Rifkin has noted.

    I don’t know all the circumstances of this case, only what I have read here on this blog. I was not privy to what information the DA had before him when considering how to charge this client. On its face, it appears the judge did the reasonable thing in reducing the charges to a misdemeanor. But IMHO there are no easy answers here…

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: It costs $50K a year to incarcerate someone a year, so I suspect people should be willing to pay more than that to give him the mental health services he needs given the costs of court, law enforcement and everything else.

    I do find it interesting that you are willing to give the DA a benefit of the doubt, at least in a devil’s advocacy, but the judge made the call. It was actually Judge Richardson, himself a former DDA for Yolo, no pushover for the defense who made the requisite point it was one candy bar.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    As for your other question, how much does he have to take, more than a candy bar. How much justifies a $50K expenditure? I don’t have an exact figure but I know it’s more than a candy bar.

  11. Fight Against Injustice

    How can someone take the DA’s office seriously when they choose to charge a felony for someone taking a candy bar?

    This is another demonstration that the DA’s office overcharges purposely–charges should reflect the severity of the crime.

    This kind of story is embarassing. Just like when the Cheese Man’s story hit national news. Just think how much criticism would come our way if some national media picked up this story–that our DA’s office charges someone with a felony for stealing a candy bar.

    Thank goodness the judge brought some common sense to the situation. I

  12. wesley506

    [quote]How much dollarwise would this guy have to shoplift, before jail would be justified?[/quote]

    An inmate with that level of mental illness would be in an enhanced mental health program in prison which typically costs approx $100,000/yr. So even if he shoplifts $1,000/week, and we spend another $1,000/month in community mental health treatment for this guy, it would be $36,000 cheaper to keep him on the streets.

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]As for your other question, how much does he have to take, more than a candy bar. How much justifies a $50K expenditure? I don’t have an exact figure but I know it’s more than a candy bar.[/quote]

    But don’t you think everyone has in their own mind what the threshold should be, and that may differ from person to person? But I tend to agree with you that one candy bar doesn’t seem excessive enough to make a felony. Except it would be interesting to know what his priors were and how many…

    [quote]An inmate with that level of mental illness would be in an enhanced mental health program in prison which typically costs approx $100,000/yr.[/quote]

    How did you come up with this figure? And how sure are you that this guy would even be eligible/get mental health services in prison? It was my understanding that prisoners rarely get the mental health services they need in prison, if ever.

    [quote]Apparently the guy is only in his early 30s. Really sad case. The guy needs help, not prison.[/quote]

    As I said before, I’d first like to know what his priors were before passing judgment… I just feel as if I don’t have enough information. But mental illness is always sad… and how do you solve the conundrum of those who are mentally ill, get the help, but won’t cooperate in taking their medications. I’ve seen this problem myself firsthand in a case I worked on…

  14. Alphonso

    [b]”I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, at the risk of drawing a lot of fire.”[/b]

    Are you advocating for the devil, the DA or are they both the same? Just curious!

  15. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine:

    “But don’t you think everyone has in their own mind what the threshold should be, and that may differ from person to person? But I tend to agree with you that one candy bar doesn’t seem excessive enough to make a felony. Except it would be interesting to know what his priors were and how many… “

    I think we should all be able to agree that this is not a gray area. I don’t know what the priors are, but it seems all around the same type of thing. He doesn’t have a strike apparently so nothing violent. He has a hearing on Friday for more things.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Are you advocating for the devil, the DA or are they both the same? Just curious![/quote]

    LOL – no, not advocating for anyone. Just positing the notion that things are not always as “simple” as they may appear. Shoplifting is a bit of a quandary. How many “bites at the apple” does a shoplifter get, before jail time becomes appropriate? Suppose this defendant had a criminal record of shoplifting every week for instance over the period of a year? As I said, I would really like to know what his prior record looked like, especially bc it does not look like he is claiming insanity as a defense…

  17. David M. Greenwald

    Insanity means he doesn’t know right from wrong, which is a limited definition. My guess is that he’ll end up in Napa regardless. That’s really what he needs anyway. We need to gear the system away from a strictly punishment orientation.

  18. medwoman

    David,

    I think you nailed it with your final comment, “We need to move away from a strictly punishment orientation.”

    At the risk of drawing a firestorm if anyone but me is still reading this blog, I will step out anyway. Of the potential reasons for incarcerating an individual : punishment ( including retribution and vengeance ), ” justice” in quotes because we have no universally agreed upon agreement about what this word means in practical application in our society, deterrence, rehabilitation and societal protection, I am of the opinion that only the latter three have any moral validity.

    For me, this is particularly true when we are dealing with minors, the mentally I’ll (whether legally sane or not), nonviolent offenders, and those charged with crimes based on arbitrary moral codes ( prostitution and possession of minute quantities of drugs for example ).
    While I firmly believe in the rule of law, I also recognize that the legal system is only one aspect of our system of governance and that sometimes the law cannot be changed in as rapid a timeframe as would be indicated by changes in forensic science, advancing knowledge of the sometimes unreliability or eyewitness accounts and confessions. It would seem to me then, that.it would be in our best interest as a society
    both financially and morally, to move away from a punishment towards a rehabilitative model. While some may say that this has not been shown to work, I would counter that it has never been given a fair chance at least in the California penal system.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, ERM and rdcanning especially.

  19. Iyah

    Medwoman – Thank You! I could not have said it better.

    I would also add that it is very easy for people to dish out sentences of prison, when never having been to one. I think as a civic duty each person should visit a prison, to see what it is actually like. Most people don’t even realize that for people who live paycheck to paycheck, which is many people today, even 30 – 90 days in prison is enough to ruin you financially. Most people finance their car, their house, have bills to pay. If you miss a payment you lose all of those things. So, what is truly the sentence you are handing someone? Have a stay in prison and reset your life back to zero – bad credit, criminal record. Who is going to help you. This is not conducive to building a better society. Especially for those people who would have been better served, including the tax paying public by an alternative approach.

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