A man who committed thefts at stores region-wide -- on one occasion stealing more than $1,000 worth of alcoholic beverages -- pleaded guilty Thursday to commercial burglary and was immediately sentenced to 16 months in jail.
Dominique Columbus Clayton, 22, of Riverside was arrested by Murrieta police earlier this month after being caught trying to steal bottles of liquor from a retail outlet.
Clayton pleaded not guilty on May 7 to grand theft, burglary, receiving stolen property and possession of burglary tools.
However, during a status conference Thursday before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Judith Clark, the prosecution and defense announced a plea agreement under which Clayton would admit the burglary count in exchange for the District Attorney's Office dropping the remaining charges.
Clark certified the plea deal and imposed a two-year "split" sentence, requiring Clayton to spend 16 months in county jail and eight months on mandatory supervision, which has all the same provisions of felony probation.
Riverside County leads the state in the use of split-sentencing, which critics argue undermines justice by giving felons a pass and advocates say is a tool to reduce jail overcrowding.
Clayton is jailed at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to Murrieta police, on the night of May 2, officers were called to the Ralphs supermarket at 23801 Washington Ave. to investigate reports of a theft. Employees directed officers to a man in the parking lot, later identified as Clayton.
According to Sgt. Scott Montez, officers found $132 worth of liquor stolen from the store, and on searching further, recovered additional spirits valued at $1,200, also "confirmed stolen," culminating in the defendant's arrest.
"The suspect was later identified in a series of alcohol thefts related to organized retail crime in which in excess of $20,000 worth of alcohol had been stolen during the last five months in four different Southern California counties," Montez said.
One of the terms of Clayton's probation is that he stay away from Ralphs stores.
Court records indicated he has pending criminal cases in Los Angeles County. He has no prior convictions in Riverside County.
— City News Service.