Repeat Offender Accused of Grand Theft Auto Pleads No Contest, Judge Offers Lenient Sentence for Accused’s Cooperation

By Fatimah Patel and Michael Apfel

MODESTO, CA – Judge Carrie Stephens accepted John William Merritt Sharp’s no contest plea here in Stanislaus County Superior Court late last week, and meted out a lighter-than-normal sentence for Sharp’s theft of a 2011 Lexus SUV and alleged evasion of police officers while driving dangerously.

Sharp faced charges of felony grand theft auto and felony reckless evading, and told the judge, “I could be better ma’am.”

According to the court file, on Oct. 1, the accused took and drove a 2011 Lexus SUV valuing over $950 without the owner’s consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle’s possession.

Allegedly disregarding officers in marked patrol cars with audible sirens and front facing red lights, Sharp continued to drive away in an unsuccessful attempt to evade law enforcement.

The defense did not contest the evaluation of the stolen vehicle, nor did they contest that the accused had knowledge that he was being pursued by law enforcement and willfully and recklessly attempted to evade them. No individuals were injured in the pursuit or in Sharp’s arrest.

Prior to this conviction, the accused was convicted of a similar auto theft offense in Santa Clara County, which he admitted in court.

Sharp’s no contest plea resulted in Judge Stephens finding him guilty. Facing up to four years in Stanislaus County Jail, Judge Stephens instead decided to give Sharp a more lenient sentence, only 180 days in jail with two years of probation and $744 worth of fines.

Successful completion of his probation would reduce the fine by $300. Sharp’s conviction in this matter could be used against him in a future case in the event he commits the same crimes.

A harsher sentence was not sought by the Deputy District Attorney Adam Bills in light of Sharp’s plea.

About The Author

Michael Apfel is a second year at USC majoring in Legal Studies and minoring in Sports Media Industries. He plans on law school after his undergraduate studies looking to work in social justice.

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