2 Buckets of Paint, 55 Years in Prison
A 47-year-old Texas man will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for stealing two buckets of paint.
After learning Thursday (March 21) morning that Gerald Franklin, of Port Arthur, had eight prior felony convictions dating to 1984, the Texas jury that had just convicted him in his ninth case did not take long to pass sentence: 55 years in prison.
The jury had convicted Franklin of a single count of burglary in the case after a four-day trial.
The burglary conviction was a second-degree felony because the crime occurred in a home.
The house, which belonged to an 80-year-old woman, was being rebuilt with federal funds after it was destoyed by Hurricane Ike. The homeowner was staying with her daughter, getting ready to move back home, when Franklin and Marthur Dingle broke in on Aug. 2, 2012.
'That's All There Was to Steal'
The only items in the house at the time were two five-gallon buckets of paint, so that's what the men took, Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Koby Hoffpauir said in an interview.
"These two guys were breaking into the houses," said Hoffpauir. "The only reason they stole the paint was because that's all there was to steal."
Franklin and Dingle also damaged the door and frame of the new house, which was nearly finished.
The defendants stole two five-gallon buckets of paint from the home of a displaced hurricane victim, because "that's all there was to steal," the DA said.
Dingle pleaded guilty to the burglary and was sentenced to five years. At Frankln's trial, Dingle—the sole defense witness—testified that Franklin had never entered the house.
Unfortunately for Franklin, an eyewitness said otherwise. That was a neighbor who had seen the men leaving the house with the paint. The neighbor called police, describing the men and their vehicle. Police found them and the paint a few blocks away.
Two prior felony convictions would have qualified Franklin as a habitual offender, which immediately meant a minimum 25-year sentence for his third strike.
Texas passed the nation's first "three strikes" law in 1974. About half of states currently have some type of habitual offender law, which dramatically increases the sentence for a third conviction.
With eight priors—all for theft, burglary and robbery—Franklin could have gotten a maximum of 99 years or a life sentence, said Hoffpauir.
Still, Hoffpauir was pleased with the 55-year term. "Looking at the history of this defendant, this is why we have habitual offender laws," he said.
"This was his ninth time. There is no evidence that he will ever reform.
"This person's not going to change."