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Prevatt gets 25 years for Hancock standoff

November 17, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN - The man who pretended to hold his pregnant fiancee hostage at America's Best Value Inn in Hancock during a two-day standoff with police in August 2008 was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to serve 25 years in prison.

James Abraham Prevatt III, 27, formerly of Moncks Corner, S.C., also was sentenced to 21 years suspended by Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer.

Prevatt previously pleaded guilty to making an arson threat and possession of marijuana in connection with the standoff.

He also pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary at the Clear Spring McDonald's and four counts of first-degree burglary for a string of residential burglaries committed in the summer of 2008.

It was those first-degree burglary charges that led to 20 years of the sentence.

Dwyer said he would recommend Prevatt serve his time at Patuxent Institution Facility in Jessup, Md., due to his history of mental illness.

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"If anybody belongs in Patuxent Institution, it's you," Dwyer said.

Before being sentenced, Prevatt apologized.

"I'd like to apologize and say I'm sorry for what I did," Prevatt said. He said he was on drugs at the time, but that was not an excuse.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael asked for Prevatt to receive 25 years in prison and more time suspended.

"He's been a thief and a burglar it looks like pretty much all his life," Michael said.

Michael said the state of Maryland doesn't want to pay for a longer sentence.

"I hate to say this. It's so dreary, but he's going to offend (again)," Michael said.

"I know we can't exile him. Wherever he goes, he's going to steal. We represent this county," Michael said. "As best we can, (we) want to banish him from this area."

Both the prosecution and defense attorneys acknowledged Prevatt's history of mental illness.

Assistant Public Defender Carl Creeden said Prevatt's mental health history dates to 1991 and he has served past incarcerations in mental health units.

Twice, while being held at the Washington County Detention Center since the standoff, Prevatt was taken to the Thomas B. Finan Center, a state-operated inpatient psychiatric hospital, in Cumberland, Md., for suicide attempts, Creeden said.

Prevatt also has addiction issues with alcohol and drugs, Creeden said.

Creeden asked for a 15-year sentence with the balance suspended or to make concurrent Michael's request for 20-year and five-year sentences.

While the standoff in Hancock closed the U.S. 522 bridge, a main north-south passage, and inconvenienced residents, Dwyer said that incident paled to the trauma homeowners experienced from the burglaries.

"This may haunt them the rest of their days," Dwyer said.

Dwyer said Prevatt committed "sneak thievery," making sure people weren't home, had no burglar alarms and he had a cell phone to tip him off if someone was coming home.

Previous mental health treatment didn't seem to do Prevatt any good as he often would violate his probation, Dwyer said.

"Society needs to be protected," Dwyer said.

For each first-degree burglary charge, Dwyer sentenced Prevatt to 10 years with five years to be suspended and each sentence to be served consecutively.

For the second-degree burglary charge, Prevatt was sentenced to three years, to be served consecutively.

Prevatt was sentenced to two years, to be served consecutively, for threat of arson and one year suspended for possession of marijuana.

Once Prevatt serves his time, he is to have five years of unsupervised probation, Dwyer said.

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