May 4, 2016

Man's role in Walmart shoplifting spree nets year in jail

After looking over the Lovell man’s criminal record and his repeated convictions for driving with a suspended license, District Court Judge Steven Cranfill had a question.

“Why,” Cranfill asked, “did you just keep doing it time after time after time?”

Although apologetic, Brian Rodriguez was unable to give an explanation.

The judge ultimately agreed with prosecutors and sentenced Rodriguez to 360 days in jail for the more recent offenses that brought him before the court last week: misdemeanor counts of shoplifting and of disposing of stolen property.

Rodriguez’s charges stemmed from walking out of the Cody Walmart with two TVs and a vacuum cleaner last summer.

The 32-year-old and his girlfriend — who allegedly helped steal a third TV — were confronted by Walmart staff as they tried taking a fourth TV and other items, Cody police say. The couple later resold some of the items, according to police.
This Walmart surveillance camera footage reportedly shows Brian Rodriguez stealing two TVs and a vacuum.

Rodriguez’s court-appointed defense attorney, Scott Kath of Powell, argued for a sentence of supervised probation, though he acknowledged his client had “a long criminal history.” Prosecutors said Rodriguez had 24 prior misdemeanor convictions.

“What’s going to stop that continued type of criminal behavior?” Kath asked his client.

Rodriguez noted many of the past convictions involved his suspended driver’s license and said he’s working to get it reinstated.

“This isn’t a recurring thing anymore; I haven’t had any trouble for a couple years, I do believe now, and I hope to keep it that way,” Rodriguez said.

“With the exception of these charges, right?” clarified Kath.

“Yes,” said Rodriguez.

However, Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Blatt noted that, after stealing the items from Walmart last August, Rodriguez committed another theft in Minnesota in October.

The prosecutor cited Rodriguez’s record in arguing for jail time.

“He’s been placed on probation or fined 24 times and it hasn’t made a difference,” Blatt said.

He also noted Rodriguez was in the middle of taking a third shopping cart out of the Cody Walmart when he was confronted by staff.

“We don’t know how much stuff might have been planned to have been taken from Walmart,” Blatt said.

Brian Rodriguez
Kath argued that Rodriguez’s past offenses were generally “really minor” and noted that the Wyoming Department of Probation and Parole recommended putting him on probation. Kath also noted Rodriguez has a job and helps care for his elderly father.

“Pulling all that from under him at this point of time and (from) his family, given the recommendations of probation and parole, would not be appropriate,” Kath said.

Rodriguez asked for probation so he could still be a productive member of society, pay his court fees and help his father.

“I know I messed up and I’m here accepting responsibility for what I’ve done,” he said.

Cranfill said it was obvious that Rodriguez’s father, who was in the courtroom, needs assistance.

“I’m sorry for that — and I think you need to apologize to your father as well for what’s happened here,” the judge told Rodriguez.

In imposing jail time, Cranfill cited Rodriguez’s “extraordinary amount” of misdemeanor convictions and noted he’d failed to complete a substance abuse assessment before sentencing.

“I just don’t understand that,” Cranfill said.

Rodriguez and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Shanna Rae Jolley, were identified as suspects in the Aug. 4 thefts from Walmart through surveillance camera images that Cody police posted to Facebook.

In Aug. 17 interviews with Cody Police Detective Jason Stafford, Jolley and Rodriguez allegedly admitted to taking the more than $1,600 worth of items. The couple reportedly told Stafford they needed money.

They allegedly sold one of the stolen TVs to Lovell’s mayor, who contacted police after learning of the thefts on Facebook.

“I know I messed up and I’m here accepting responsibility for what I’ve done,” Rodriguez said at his recent court appearance.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty as part of a deal that involved the Park County Attorney’s Office reducing the shoplifting charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Cranfill called that “a great gift.”

As part of his sentence, Rodriguez must also pay $340 in routine court fees and $456 in restitution to Walmart for the stolen merchandise that couldn’t be restocked.

Jolley, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of shoplifting and a misdemeanor count of disposing of stolen property. A trial is tentatively set for August.

Court records indicate Jolley is currently receiving substance abuse treatment at a facility in Sheridan.

~By CJ Baker

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