A 20-year-old Ketchum man who racked up charges of about $600 on fuel cards that he stole from parked Mountain Rides Transportation Authority buses was placed on four years probation March 19 and also ordered to complete the requirements of a mental health court in Twin Falls County.
Blaine County District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee also gave James Logan Kassner a five-year suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay restitution for the charges on the cards.
Kassner pleaded guilty in January to the felony crime of criminal possession of a financial transaction card. In exchange for his guilty plea, a second felony charge of burglary was dismissed.
Kassner was charged with the crimes for stealing five fuel cards last summer from Mountain Rides buses parked in Hailey. According to Hailey police, he used the cards 36 times for fuel and other purchases totaling $616.24. Police reported that Kassner was identified by video surveillance at the Splash & Dash in Bellevue and at the Sun Valley Sinclair station.
He was on probation at the time of his arrest in August 2011 for illegally using his father's VISA card number to buy some $2,000 worth of computer equipment in 2010. He was originally charged with a felony in that case but it was pleaded down to misdemeanor petit theft and Kassner was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
"This case is a culmination of several thefts that Mr. Kassner has been responsible for," Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said. "This is a problem that has been getting progressively worse over the past three years. It's hard for me to understand that even with his mental health issues that Mr. Kassner doesn't understand the consequences of stealing."
Both Fredback and Hailey attorney Christopher Simms, assigned as public defender, agreed that mental health court was the best option for Kassner. Simms noted that Kassner has already applied and been accepted into the court headed by Twin Falls County 5th District Judge G. Richard Bevan.
Mental health courts, similar to drug and alcohol courts, offer convicted people the opportunity for rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
Simms noted that his client has had mental health problems most of his life, but noted that only recently have they become problematic.
"I think I owe everybody an apology," Kassner told the court. "I know what I did but I don't really know why."
Elgee told the defendant that admitting to a wrong was a first step to correcting the problem.
"I think these mental health issues might explain why you do what you do, but they don't excuse it," Elgee said.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org