Grass Valley T-Mobile thief sentenced to six years
A Nevada County judge has sentenced the fourth defendant in the robbery of the Grass Valley T-Mobile store to six years in state prison, the maximum sentence possible.
Brian Javon Mack, 21, was found guilty last month by a jury on two counts of a lesser felony charge of grand theft. The jury opted not to convict on a more serious and violent robbery charge.
Mack’s three codefendants had run inside the Nevada County Highway T-Mobile store on Nov. 15, 2018, and stolen cell phones off the wall. Mack ran inside the store as the others were running out and scooped a phone off the floor before all four fled in a Jeep. The other men accepted plea agreements, while Mack opted to go to trial. Mack’s first trial in November ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of the robbery conviction.
Both trials hinged on the question of whether Mack’s actions constituted theft by force or fear. Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee argued that the men’s “abrupt” entrance while wearing hoodies cinched around their faces and then ripping phones off the wall did produce the element of fear necessary for a conviction of robbery. Mack’s defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt, argued that not only was no force used, there was no intent to use fear to accomplish the theft.
After the Jan. 16 verdict, Munkelt filed a motion to strike a prior felony conviction, arguing the court should “strike the strike” and allow Mack to be sentenced more leniently. Typically, a prior strike offense means a defendant cannot be placed on probation, must be sentenced to state prison, receives less credit for time in custody and is subject to a doubling of the sentence.
Mack’s prior adult conviction was for a residential burglary, followed by several probation violations, but Munkelt argued those were minor offenses. He also argued Mack could not find employment due to his criminal history, and wanted to provide for his family, likening him to Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” — a character imprisoned for stealing bread for family.
Lisonbee, however, noted that Mack was not only on probation for burglary at the time of the T-Mobile theft. He’d also committed several serious felonies as a juvenile.
“While there are situations where it is appropriate to strike a prior strike, this case does not fall within this situation,” Lisonbee states in court records.
On Friday, Nevada Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson denied Munkelt’s motion, sentencing Mack to the upper term of six years, with 463 days credit for time served.
Munkelt has filed a notice of appeal, claiming a violation of double jeopardy and the constitutional right to have all issues decided by the jury selected to hear the case, because Mack’s trial concluded without the jury hearing the issue of the prior strike offense.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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