By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Clinton County District Court Judge Henry Latham granted another chance for a man charged with second-degree theft, finding that he was “taken advantage of.”
Travis Walters, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree theft on March 30, admitting that he purchased thousands of dollars of equipment from Wal-Mart and wrote a check out to Miller Ridge Apartments in October when he knew he did not have sufficient funds in his bank account. His sentencing was delayed on May 15 so the court could order a mental health report.
Thursday morning, Assistant Clinton County Attorney Amanda Myers asked Latham to impose a prison sentence of as much as five years. She pointed out that the defendant has previous criminal history and has shown that probation does not always work for him. She also told the court that Walters will most likely be going to prison for the revocation of a 10-year special parole sentence from a 2008 conviction of lascivious conduct with a minor.
Defense Attorney Dave Binegar told Latham that if his client received a suspended sentence and probation, he could work to get his Social Security disability payments in place again, allowing him to pay restitution to his victims. Walters also asked the court for probation, saying that he has recently taken on the responsibility of buying a house, is a proud father and has stayed out of trouble since he has been released.
“This situation came up because I followed other people,” Walters said. He added that he will work to pay his victim back.
Latham agreed with the defendant’s assessment of the situation, also feeling that people took advantage of the man’s mental health issues. He asked the defendant if he had been taking his medication. Walters reported that he had.
“This is a difficult case,” Latham said. “I understand the state’s recommendation from the information they’ve been provided.”
Latham hesitated to minimize the importance of Walters’ previous criminal history. However, he said he noticed a pattern that fit Walters’ earlier statements.
“As I read these charges, as I read the pre-sentencing investigation report, you fell in with the wrong people,” Latham said.
Latham told the defendant he would “go against the system” and suspend the five-year prison sentence, as well as any required fine. He added that he understands there is a chance that Walters may be back in court on the parole violation, but said that is not a guarantee.
“I’m OK with that, because I’m going to give you a chance to make something good,” Latham said. He also ordered that the suspended sentence run concurrently with any possible time imposed for the parole violation.
Walters must pay $1,270 in restitution to Miller Ridge Apartments. Myers said she has not received a response from Wal-Mart concerning restitution. He also is ordered to follow through on his mental health visits, obtain some form of employment and seek help on getting his Social Security Disability.
An additional charge of second-degree theft was dismissed.