Friday, December 9, 2011

Defendant gets extra time for back-talking

Benjamin Dugan sentenced to jail and probation in home theft case


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Benjamin Patrick Dugan

A 32-year-old Ketchum man got an extra 30 days in jail for failing to keep his mouth shut in court on Monday even after he was ordered to do so by 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee.

Benjamin Patrick Dugan interrupted Elgee several times while the judge was pronouncing sentence for felony possession of stolen property. Even after being warned, Dugan kept muttering things such as "It isn't fair," "Just do your thing, Judge" and "I'm the victim here."

When a second warning didn't suffice, Elgee ordered Dugan removed from the courtroom and continued sentencing without him. In the end, Dugan wasn't subjected to the full force of the law—he was given probation instead of prison.

Dugan was given a suspended five-year prison sentence, fined $1,000, placed on probation for three years and sentenced to time served plus the extra 30 days. He has been incarcerated in the Blaine County jail for nearly six months following his arrest by the Ketchum Police Department on June 15.

Dugan is one of five suspects originally charged with theft, aiding or abetting theft, or possession of items stolen last spring from the west Ketchum home of Mary Grace Feehan. According to the Ketchum Police Department, the thefts occurred while Feehan was away from home and had allowed a 16-year-old Ketchum boy to have access to her house.

Police reported in June that about $100,000 worth of jewelry and other items were taken. According to police reports, some of the jewelry was sold to Diamond Buyers in Ketchum and to Christopher and Co. jewelry store in Hailey.

According to court records, the 16-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to felony grand theft and is awaiting sentencing in Blaine County Juvenile Court.

Felony aiding and abetting theft charges against two suspects, 19-year-old David K. Aranda and 20-year-old Juan Carlos Molina, both of Hailey, were dismissed in July when Magistrate Court Judge Jason Walker ruled in a preliminary hearing that the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office had failed to show that either Aranda or Molina knew the property was stolen. They had been accused of helping the 16-year-old sell off stolen items at Diamond Buyers and Christopher and Co.

A fifth suspect, Shanna Marie Deleon, 35, of Ketchum, was originally charged with felony grand theft but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petit theft on Nov. 29. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 3, in Magistrate Court before Judge Walker.

Dugan pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property in October, but Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said at Monday's hearing that Dugan has a long history of misdemeanor offenses and alleged that Dugan was more involved in the Feehan thefts than he was willing to admit.

"According to Mr. Dugan, he bought this $10,000 watch for $400," Fredback said. "Mr. Dugan said he thought the 16-year-old was the legal owner of the property, but in light of his criminal history it's a little bit hard to believe that he didn't know the watch was stolen."

"He has a way of minimizing his acts," Fredback said. "I think he's only sorry that he got caught."

Public defender Stephen Thompson reminded the court that Dugan had only pleaded guilty to possessing the stolen watch, but said that his client was angry because Dugan believed he was being blamed for the crimes and others who were more culpable and escaped prosecution.

During the portion of the hearing when Dugan was allowed to speak, he told judge Elgee that he regretted pleading guilty.

"Your honor, I take responsibility for making an error in judgment," Dugan said. "I should have taken this to trial. I'm sitting here taking responsibility for other people's acts, and it's not right. I did not steal any of this woman's stuff. I did not even know her until I came to court. I just don't see the justice in this case."

Elgee told Dugan that if he is innocent then he shouldn't have pleaded guilty.

"If you're not guilty, you should have gone to trial," Elgee said. "If you plead guilty, then you're treated as if you're guilty."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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