Harsher Penalties For Thieves

Reported by: Alisha Searl
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Updated: 9/18/2012 7:07 pm
Some call this a copper thief's playground; seven chicken houses, a nice three story home, and a $30,000 generator, all bank owned and left unattended.

Well, deputies say that was until Myrtie Franklin Keith III, 32, and his cousin Keith Clark.

Bob Gault, with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, says, "To get to the wiring, they destroyed much of the interior, which is going to take a substantial amount of work to get this home back in a condition where it can be occupied."

$260,000 worth of copper and metal items, stolen, according to deputies.

Now, for the first time ever in the state of Tennessee, this crime carries a stiffer penalty.

And the district attorney's office says Keith could be the very first person in the state to feel its effects.

Stephen Hatchett, Assistant District Attorney General in Bradley County, says, "The legislature amended the law, now any theft over $250,000 is a Class A felony."

That means you could face 15 to 25 years in prison, and absolutely no probation.

Before, you would have faced less time, eight to twelve years for the same crime.

Hatchett adds, "The law needed to be changed. There's no reason for someone who steals $60,000 to receive one punishment, and a person who steals $250,000 to receive the same punishment. I think a reasonable person would look at the situation and say there's a gross injustice."

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office says they are ok with the new statute.

Gault adds, "Obviously it cost more in the prison system to house these individuals for many years, but they're there to be helped."

So, as the law stands right now, if you steal a lot of high ticket items, you could wind up spending more time in jail than if you killed someone.

Hatchett adds, "The law says that in certain circumstances, you can kill someone and get less time, you're absolutely right."

Keith Clark is still on the run.

If you know his whereabouts, you are asked to call the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.
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