Thief who aimed to teach victim ‘lesson’ gets no relief on appeal

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An Indianapolis man who said he stole a video monitoring system and car wash tickets to teach the victim a lesson about leaving valuables in an unlocked car lost his appeal Friday.

Hiawathia Hunt was sentenced to 545 days in prison, with approximately half of that as time executed, after he was convicted of theft for stealing the items from the owner of a spa and salon where Hunt leased space and worked. Hunt later returned the surveillance system, but not the car wash tickets for which the spa owner paid more than $400 to sell as a fundraiser for her son’s Little League team.

“According to Hunt, he saw that the door was open on (the victim’s) parked car and took the items in order to teach (her) a ‘lesson,’” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in the unanimous seven-page Court of Appeals decision, Hiawathia Hunt v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1207-CR-371.

The court ruled that a judge’s offer to trim time off Hunt’s sentence in exchange for restitution did not constitute a conditional sentence deemed impermissible in Saddler v. State, 953 N.E.2d 1220 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).

After a bench trial in Marion Superior Court, Judge Reuben Hill chastised Hunt and disregarded his apology and expression of remorse to the victim. Hill said Hunt had acted with malice because he had not returned the tickets or paid for them.

At sentencing, Hill told Hunt that the victim “needs her $400 back. You pay that $400 and I will reconsider how much time you have to serve in prison.”

“In the present case, Hunt claims that his sentence was also conditional. We disagree and find the present case distinguishable from Saddler,” Mathias wrote. “In that case, the trial court gave the defendant repeated opportunities to pay restitution and explicitly stated that if she did not pay restitution, then she was going to serve time in jail.

“The trial court simply explained to Hunt that modification of his sentence was possible if he paid restitution to the victim; it did not make Hunt’s sentence conditional on the payment of restitution. Because Hunt’s sentence was not conditional, and because Hunt alleges no further error in his sentence, we affirm.”



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