Car Thief Escapes Five Years in Prison through Salvation Army Rehab Program

By Larkin White

SACRAMENTO – A car thief may have caught a big break here in Sacramento County Superior Court last Thursday—he escaped five years in jail if he completes a two-year Salvation Army rehabilitation program in Stockton.

“Your life changes today, okay?” said the defendant’s Assistant Public Defender Damien Jovel to the accused after the sentencing took place. The sentence hinged on the belief that the accused will be able to turn his life around through rehab.

On October 20, 2019, the accused was caught after stealing a 2007 BMW. Two months later, while out on bail, he stole another car—this time a 2014 Chevy Cruze.

During the hearing Thursday, he faced sentencing for both offenses, in addition to what Deputy District Attorney Spencer Rajabzadeh referred to as a “stack” of misdemeanor drug charges.

Jovel, Rajabzadeh, and Judge Patrick Marlette discussed the matter from separate rooms over Zoom, while the accused stood before the webcam in court.

Given the more serious nature of the car thefts, Rajabzadeh agreed to dismiss the misdemeanors as long as drug conditions were enforced on the acccused’s eventual probation.

Marlette found the accused guilty, as expected. When considering the accused’s additional 2014 felony conviction for car theft, he stated that altogether the accused could face seven years in prison, but that he would instead sentence the accused to five years and suspend the sentence.

Instead of hard time, the accused will attend inpatient rehabilitation in Stockton for one year, followed by another year of outpatient rehabilitation, where he is mandated to stay sober throughout.

Crucially, the suspension of his jail time rests on the completion of the entire rehab program. If he fails out of the program for any reason, he will have to do the time.

He will also have to pay a fine, as well as victim restitution to anyone who lost money because of his actions and would like such, the judge mandated.

When asked if he understood, the accused told Jovel, “I’m anxious.”

The accused will be going to the Stockton Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, which describes itself as a “faith-based work therapy program for those struggling with alcohol and substance abuse.” Both Marlette and Rajabzadeh expressed their belief in the program and cited it as the reason that the accused is able to avoid the jail sentence.

“We believe in you,” Judge Marlette told the accused at the end of the hearing. He added that it was going to be hard, but it would be a lot easier than going in and out of jail for the rest of his life.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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