DOBSON — With some hesitation, Presiding Judge A. Moses Massey agreed to give a probationary sentence to a 20-year-old who participated in a 2014 multi-county break-in spree.
“I’m very reticent to not have someone spend some time in jail when they steal,” the judge stated during the July 12 plea hearing.
“When I hover between decisions,” Massey said his guiding principal is “if in doubt, err on the side of mercy.”
The defendant, Rackwon Tyrez Simon, of East 17th Street, Winston-Salem, was one of four arrested in July 2014 and accused of breaking into homes in Davie, Forsyth, Stokes and Surry counties.
He was indicted in Surry County on one count of felony breaking and/or entering in March.
By that time, Simon had already served time in prison and was on post-release and supervised probation on related convictions in the three other counties.
He pleaded guilty in Superior Court on July 12.
During the hearing, the state made note of one unique aspect of the local incident – a 12-year-old had been inside the home on Pleasant Pine Lane, Pinnacle, when the break-in occurred.
According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Miller, the young victim had heard someone knock, but not recognizing who was outside, didn’t open the door.
She went back to watching television – until she heard the door crash in. Then she ran next door and called the police.
Authorities had already been looking for the white BMW seen leaving the scene, and the foursome were arrested not long after.
One of the suspects immediately “gave full acknowledgement,” and admitted to kicking down the door and grabbing a purse from inside before running off, Assistant District Attorney Mark Miller stated.
That suspect said the group hadn’t known anyone was home and that Simon had stayed in the car when the incident occurred.
Miller indicated that the case would be the last of the four-county, four-defendant incident and bring the entire matter to a close.
Defense Attorney Ben Royster said “I certainly had some concerns from the state’s evidence,” particularly some fingerprints that had been lost or not submitted for analysis, but noted that Simon had pleaded guilty in other counties prior to his involvement in the case.
Simon was accepting responsibility for his role in the crime, was doing well on probation and pursuing his GED, Royster said.
Massey did not immediately accept the plea, and asked Miller several questions, including if the victims had been consulted about the plea arrangement.
“Not recently,” the prosecutor responded.
“I’m hesitating,” Massey said. “Breaking into someone’s home, particularly when occupied by a 12-year-old girl, is a horrendous crime.”
He paused the hearing to give the prosecutor a chance to contact the victims.
When it resumed later that afternoon, Miller had spoken with one of the homeowners, the girl’s father.
“He said it was perfectly fine,” Miller said, and in fact, “expressed a degree of shock” that the case hadn’t yet been disposed.
The victim had clarified that a restitution request of about $900 had been entered.
Massey again expressed reluctance to accept the plea.
Royster spoke again on his client’s behalf.
In the two years since the break-in, Simon “has only taken steps forward,” the attorney said.
“By all accounts he’s learned from the time he spent in prison, and the time spent on probation. He’s 20 years old — he is incredibly young,” he said. “I understand the court’s desire for him to be punished,” he added, but made note that his client was voluntarily entering a plea on a case “that does have, in my opinion, significant evidentiary concerns.”
With a felony record and a young child to support, Simon “does not have a lot of money,” but had $20 on him to pay toward restitution, Royster said.
Massey accepted the plea.
He gave Simon a suspended 10- to 21- month sentence and placed him on supervised probation for 36 months with electronic monitoring for 90 days.
Simon was ordered to pay the costs of court and $960 in restitution, with $20 of that to be paid immediately and $43 toward the case per month.
If he fails to do so, a violation and order for arrest will be issued with a $20,000 minimum secured bond.
“That is $10 a week,” Massey said, instructing the defendant to borrow $1 from 10 neighbors if necessary to meet the obligation.
“There are not plentiful jobs, but there are jobs for those who are anxious enough to find one.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.