Man gets life sentence in looting case during Oroville Dam evacuations
Special to The Union
A Gridley man convicted of burglarizing an evacuated home during the Oroville Dam spillway crisis was sentenced to life in prison, marking the most severe penalty yet for a person charged with looting during the dam evacuations in February.
Butte County Superior Court Judge Tamara Mosbarger this week sentenced John Beebe Jr., 39, to 25 years to life, plus an additional five-year term, after Beebe pleaded no contest in October to a felony count of first-degree residential burglary.
Beebe also had admitted to several sentencing enhancements related to prior felony convictions he has suffered, and he was ultimately sentenced under California’s three-strikes law.
Mosbarger noted that Beebe’s criminal history spanned 25 years, beginning when he was 14. As an adult, the judge said, Beebe has been convicted of 15 felonies, seven misdemeanors and one infraction.
Beebe’s most recent charge stems from the burglary of an evacuated home in Gridley sometime between Feb. 12-14, when more than 180,000 residents downstream of Oroville Dam were ordered to flee the area.
Officials feared the dam’s emergency spillway could fail and send a wall of water into Oroville and other communities along the Feather River.
Prosecutors have said more than $2,000 in personal effects were taken from the home in Gridley, including boots, jewelry and electronics.
Gridley-Biggs police later arrested Beebe on suspicion of the burglary, and he allegedly confessed to the crime.
Prosecutors as department policy have been seeking the maximum punishments possible in looting and looting-type cases stemming from the dam evacuations. Beebe’s sentence is the most severe yet.
At sentencing Wednesday, deputy district attorney Jessica Miller said Beebe entered the evacuated home and stole shoes, jewelry and a computer, which he gave to a family member.
Miller said that Beebe took “advantage of the vulnerability of an entire community” to support an addiction to drugs.
“The interest of justice cannot support giving him any kind of leeway in terms of his sentence,” the prosecutor argued. “This is the reason we have the three-strikes law, so that people like the defendant do not continue to victimize our towns, our communities — especially in times when we are vulnerable.”
Beebe’s defense attorney, Leo Battle, said at sentencing that Beebe is remorseful, adding that his criminal history has apparently been “fueled by his raging addiction to methamphetamine.”
Battle said Beebe could not control his drug addiction even after seeking help.
In a letter Beebe wrote to the judge seeking leniency at sentencing, the 39-year-old said he had been abusing drugs since he was 12 and has been in and out jail for much of his life.
“I allowed my addiction to dictate my life, irrespective of the consequences,” he wrote, adding that he had reached his “aha moment” and believes he could be a “good man and a good father” for the first time in his life.
Andre Byik is a reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record.
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