An Oak Bluffs man was found guilty Tuesday in Dukes County superior court for the March 2011 theft of an elderly Oak Bluffs man’s life savings, and sentenced to five to seven years in state prison.
A jury of 12 found Stanley Johnson, 52, guilty of unarmed burglary and larceny more than $250. The Hon. Cornelius J. Moriarty 2nd, an associate justice of the superior court, sentenced Mr. Johnson to no less than five and no more than seven years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction, a maximum security prison in Walpole.
Mr. Johnson, along with Daniel A. Ben David, also of Oak Bluffs, was arrested in March 2011 on charges that the two stole about $85,000 from an Oak Bluffs man. The money was the man’s life savings that he kept in a safe in his home. The man, who is now 77 and whose name is being withheld, was in the courtroom for closing arguments and the sentencing.
As the Gazette reported at the time, the man came home from a trip off-Island to find that the money he kept in a safe was missing. Mr. Ben David and Mr. Johnson allegedly confessed to the crime at the time, and there was a police chase after Mr. Johnson failed to return from an overnight good-faith trip to New York to allegedly collect some of the stolen money.
Mr. Ben David’s case is scheduled for disposition in the next few weeks.
In his closing argument, Mr. Johnson’s attorney, J. Drew Segadelli, questioned the credibility of Mr. Ben David, who testified against Mr. Johnson. “Because Daniel Ben David said so. Can you rest comfortably with that thought?” he asked.
But Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard said the facts in the case “paint a vivid picture of Mr. Johnson’s participation” and said he had motive and opportunity. She displayed $5,810 in cash, kept in an envelope, that she said police found on Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Moriarty sentenced him to from five to seven years for the charge of unarmed burglary. On the charge of larceny more than $250, he was placed on probation for four years, concurrent with the first sentence, and ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $85,000, less the amount recovered. Mr. Johnson was also ordered not to contact the victim, not to consume drugs subject to random screens, and to submit a DNA sample.
The sentence was slightly less than the seven to nine years requested by Ms. Marshard. Mr. Segadelli asked for two years in a house of correction, noting that his client is married and has three children, the youngest turning nine on Monday.
Judge Moriarty said he considered the charges to be serious, noting that “it seems to be out of character for Mr. Johnson” because he lacked a substantial prior record. But he said he focused on two factors. The first, he said, was that the victim’s life savings were stolen, which he said was “a very, very difficult concept to swallow that somebody could be so unconcerned with another human being.”
Further, he said, police “gave Mr. Johnson every opportunity to make this right and he took the opportunity to dupe them.” He said this was “a gamble that he took that frankly is not going to pay off.”
In response to a question from the judge, Mr. Segadelli said Mr. Johnson did not have the means to pay back the money.
“The sentence would be far different if there was any indication Mr. Johnson would be able to pay back the money to make this man whole,” Mr. Moriarty said. He said that if he is able to come up with a way to pay back the money, he would consider a motion to revise and revoke the sentence.
Mr. Moriarty said Mr. Ben David had already returned about $35,000, and $5,810 had been recovered from Mr. Johnson, though it is currently held by the court as evidence. “While I think Mr. Johnson should be punished, I think it’s equally important that [the victim] be reimbursed for the losses that he’s suffered. So that’s going to be the sentence,” he said.
Mr. Moriarty said he would be sentencing Mr. Ben David in the near future, and emphasized that the money had to be paid back by both defendants. “My hope is to see [the victim] reimbursed fully,” he said. The jury of nine men and three women struggled to reach a verdict in the case. Deliberations began at about noon on Monday, and a few hours later the jury reported to the judge that they were stuck. At the end of the day Monday, after further deliberations, the jury reported that after four votes, they were deadlocked, with strong views and no movement.
On Tuesday morning deliberations continued for about an hour, and the jury returned with a guilty verdict.
“I’m truly frustrated with the verdict,” Mr. Segadelli said after the sentencing. “When analyzing the evidence I truly do not believe they had enough to render a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.” He said this was especially “in light of the strongest evidence coming from a witness with a long criminal record.”
He added that while he felt for the victim, the fact that the jury was deadlocked and apparently anxious to leave “causes me some concern.”
Ms. Marshard had no comment after the sentencing.