Man gets 5 years for Sears theft

LIHUE — A 55-year-old Lihue man convicted of stealing items from Sears was sentenced to a five-year prison term Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court.

A jury took less than an hour to find Preston guilty of second-degree theft after a two-day trial on May 22. He stole a 32-inch television and a home theater system from the former Sears store at Kukui Grove Center on April 22, 2012.

Preston admitted to stealing the items, but his court-appointed defense attorney Scott Kessinger argued that the defendant thought he was stealing a $150 television and an $84 DVD player.

He said combined value of what he thought he stole was less than $300 and a misdemeanor offense, which carries a possible one-year jail term.

The actual combined value was $529.96 as the items were recovered from his car in the Lihue McDonald’s parking lot shortly after the theft.

Kessinger also noted that it has been more than five years since the defendant’s last offense.

This means that a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 months for a repeat offense within five years does not apply, he said.

“I presided over the trial and am very familiar with this case,” said Judge Kathleen Watanabe. “Your attorney Mr. Kessinger worked hard on your behalf.”

Second Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt said probation would not be appropriate given the defendant’s criminal history and poor performance on probation and parole. The state is seeking the open prison term as the only alternative, she said.

“The defendant has spent 16 of the past 23 years in prison,” Vogt said.

Kessinger argued against the open prison term and for felony probation. He said Preston is largely involved in petty theft issues that were fueled by a drug problem.

The defendant is conditioned by incarceration, and when he comes out of prison, he will not have the tools to adapt and on his own he will likely trip up again, Kessinger said. Consider his age and the lack of severity and the need for close supervision of probation versus prison, he said, and that he has also successfully completed probation in the past.

“In this court’s mind, given all of the circumstances, there is only one appropriate sentence,” Watanabe said.

Preston was held at Kauai Community Correctional Center since his arrest on the charges and will get credit for over one year and four months time served.

Preston, who is also known as George Coleman, George Goldman, Steven Kaiser and Steven Kaisere, has 41 convictions in Hawaii from 1990 to 2007.

Eight of them are felony convictions for second-degree theft and possession of dangerous drugs or paraphernalia.

He has also had six probation and three parole violations in Hawaii and was re-sentenced to five-year prison terms in 1993 and 2007.

He also has four felony convictions in the state of Florida.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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