The Johnson brothers, accused regionwide burglars, opted for a jury trial.
A plea deal was turned down because Mark Johnson, 56, does not want to die in prison, according to his attorney.
He was the holdup, according to his attorney, in the plea deal taken off the table Friday by the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office. The deal included Johnson and his brother, Jerry Allen Johnson.
It would have had the brothers plead to six counts of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary in exchange for a 13-year and four-month prison term, to be served at 85 percent.
A convict sentenced to prison for a violent felony must serve 85 percent of his term, according to California law. For prosecutors to prove a burglary was a violent act, they would have to prove a victim was home during one of the dozens of burglaries the brothers are alleged to have committed.
“We believe we would be able to show that, even if he was guilty, he never entered a home while somebody was there,” said Roberto Marquez, Mark Johnson’s attorney.
Marquez said he has had extensive communications with the district attorney’s office, and in the latest offer, he was told that this was the lowest they could go because they believe the cases are provable.
Neither prosecutor Kimberly Webb nor Jerry Johnson’s attorney, Philippa Lauben, returned phone calls for comment.
The brothers earlier declined an offer of 22 years in prison, at 50 percent, in exchange for pleas in all three counties where they have burglary cases: Plumas, Yuba and Sutter.
“We believe at a jury trial we can do a lot better,” Marquez said.
Mark Johnson suffered a heart attack while booked in Sutter County Jail.
“It’s just a bad situation. He’s 56, he’s got a bad heart and I don’t know what his life expectancy is,” Marquez said.
“If he takes 10 years, he actually wouldn’t likely make it out.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled in Sutter County Superior Court for July 24.
Prosecutors may have difficulty linking evidence to specific burglaries.
The brothers are accused of using their business, A-1 Asphalt, to gain access to victims’ homes throughout Northern California, including Nevada County. Sutter County Sheriff’s investigators put an end to the alleged burglary spree last summer.
Victims have said they’ve lost countless personal belongings, including family heirlooms and meaningful memorabilia.
Investigators discovered stockpiles of belongings that had been reported stolen in the last few decades from dozens of victims.
Lt. James Casner said that attempts to get the belongings back to their rightful owners have been difficult.
It has been “just heartbreaking” to watch victims desperately looking for their things, he said.
Jerry Johnson is being held on $1.65 million bail, and Mark Johnson is being held on $1.15 million bail in Sutter County Jail.
Monica Vaughan is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.