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Twice the time for burglary conviction

Published Oct. 9, 2005

The normal first-time offender who breaks into a house or steals a car might be sentenced to several months in jail or probation.

But 27-year-old Joseph Michael Scott is no normal burglar or car thief.

Scott, of Inverness, was convicted of grand theft of a car and burglary of an occupied dwelling in May in Hernando County.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead sentenced him to 30 years in prison and 10 years of probation.

The reason, said Assistant State Attorney Rita Battista, was that Scott is a classic candidate for sentencing under Florida's habitual offender law.

"This guy had a horrendous record," she said.

At the sentencing, Assistant State Attorney Bruce Carney presented Scott's prior record _ 14 felony convictions.

As a 15-year-old, he began a string of crimes that included burglaries, car thefts, passing bad checks and one aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Springstead said. He had been released from prison only about 30 days before Nov. 14, when he committed the crimes that led to his sentencing on Wednesday.

"It was unbelievable," said Springstead of Scott's record. "He clearly qualified."

The habitual offender law allows the judge to sentence offenders to twice the state maximum if it is their third felony conviction and if they have been free from their most recent sentence for less than five years.

Burglary of an occupied dwelling is a second-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Springstead sentenced Scott to the prison term for the burglary charge and to probation for stealing the vehicle, a third-degree felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The court files gave the following account of the crimes:

About 2:30 a.m., Scott broke into the garage of John Gary Grubbs on U.S. 41. He drove off in Grubbs' 1977 Chevrolet pickup truck. Grubbs, who heard the truck being stolen, jumped out of bed and took off after him in a Chevrolet Blazer.

Scott led him up U.S. 41, then turned onto back roads north of Brooksville until both trucks were on a narrow dirt road in the Citrus Game Reserve. There, Scott ran into a tree. When Grubbs neared the accident, Scott rammed the Blazer with the pickup, jumped out and ran away.

A short time later Scott, walking along a dirt road near the accident scene, was found by Citrus County Sheriff's deputies and arrested.

Even considering the circumstances, Scott's lawyer, L.R. Huffstetler Jr., called the sentence "a little extreme .


. especially for a 27-year-old man with a wife and kid."

But Scott, he acknowledged, had a significant history of not abiding by the law.

"He was not lily-white." Huffstetler said.