Snatching $31 in Candy May Cost New Orleans Shoplifter 20 Years to Life


This could be expensive for taxpayers.  Shouldn’t habitual offender laws look at severity of CRIME, instead of number of convictions?

Jacobia Grimes is a career shoplifter, and his last offense – stealing $31 worth of candy from Dollar General Store – suddenly has him facing a possible sentence of 20 years to life behind bars.  

The stiff penalty is a result of the fact Grimes has so many prior convictions, making him a “quad” offender under the state’s habitual-offender law.   Even the judge is questioning the severity of the case.

Grimes appeared Thursday for arraignment before Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich, pleading not guilty. “Isn’t this a little over the top?” Zibilich wondered aloud over the threat of a “multiple bill,” an approach that leaves little discretion to a judge.   “It’s not even funny,” the judge said. “Twenty years to life for a Snickers bar?”

His attorney says he has a nine-grade education and a heroin problem.   Since March 2001, he has spent nearly nine years total in state prisons, mostly for shoplifting: first a year, then 18 months, then three years and finally a little over three years ending in 2013, according to a state Department of Corrections spokesperson.

According to the state agency, prisoners cost the state an average of $18,800 per year.  All his thefts were less than $500 worth of items.  He also has prior convictions for possession with intent to sell fake drugs and obscenity, a crime committed while he was behind bars.

Grimes, who also faces a charge of drug paraphernalia possession, is free on $5,000 bond, court records show.  He is next due in court on Wednesday. He has elected to forgo a jury in favor of a judge trial.


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