DADE CITY — After three years of living, and nearly dying, in the Pasco County Jail, William Earl McCalop is leaving.
He's going to prison.
McCalop, 52, is a lifelong criminal with little life left. He has been to prison already, five times since age 21. His rap sheet includes robberies and burglaries — sometimes with weapons — and possession and sale of every kind of drug.
Now he's in ruined health from heart attacks, a stroke and years of alcohol and drug abuse. His doctors say he won't live two more years.
So when a judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison Wednesday for burglary and grand theft, McCalop said, "This is more or less my death sentence."
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Even after he got sick and began using a wheelchair, McCalop racked up more charges.
His trial Wednesday stemmed from a crime in 2002.
Prosecutors said McCalop served as the lookout while another man climbed through the window of a home on State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel and took a stereo, phone, leaf blower and several bank checks. McCalop shared in the proceeds of the crime, selling the stereo and giving the checks to another man to cash.
In a recorded interview with a sheriff's detective, McCalop said that other man "played me for dumb" — he didn't know they were there to commit a burglary and thought his role was just to hold a gate open while the other man loaded up an air compressor he was being given.
McCalop said when he realized the checks being passed around were stolen, he "tried to separate myself from that."
His attorney, Geoff Cox, emphasized that McCalop never showed any intent to commit a crime.
"That's what is speculative," Cox said.
But Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner told the jury that McCalop's actions made him a principal to the crime, and the law treats those the same.
"He doesn't actually have to go in the house and steal," she said. "He's acting as a lookout."
As for the checks, she reminded them of McCalop's own words to the detective.
"What did he say about the checks? 'I didn't want to cash the checks because I knew they were stolen.' " Sumner said.
The jury needed less than an hour to convict him.
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The three years it took to bring the case to trial cost more than McCalop's time. He has languished in the jail since 2006, part of that time in the medical wing.
The cost of his meals and showers, medications, hospital stays and doctors' care totals an estimated $182,492.32, according to figures provided by the Sheriff's Office.
To make their case with the jury, the State Attorney's Office flew in two witnesses to testify, a former detective now living in Alaska, and the man who cashed the stolen checks who now lives in Colorado.
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McCalop had hoped to die at home, where his parents could care for him. He hoped to see his 14 children all together.
But the hunched man in the wheelchair had to pay for the crimes of the young criminal he once was.
Sumner sought to have McCalop designated a prison releasee reoffender, meaning he committed a new crime within three years of leaving prison. The designation requires he receive the maximum sentence and serve every day of it.
McCalop didn't contest that, which prompted Sumner to back away from further sentencing enhancements that could have sent him away for 50 years.
"I think it's pretty evident," Sumner said, "that 15 years is …"
"Enough," Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa said, finishing the sentence for her.
After he sentenced McCalop, the judge asked if he wanted to say anything.
"What can I say? I had my day," he said.
"You had your day," Siracusa replied.