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Hagerstown man sentenced to eight years for January break-in linked to federal case

September 05, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Circuit Court judge on Thursday sentenced a Hagerstown man with a long criminal record to eight years in prison after he entered an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit a third-degree burglary in a January break-in linked to a federal case.

“Given your record, you certainly ought to thank your lawyer,” Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley told James Thomas Grapes Jr., formerly of View Street.

Beachley told Grapes he could have faced a much longer sentence had he been convicted by a jury.

However, the 45-year-old Grapes could face additional time in prison when he has a hearing on Monday for violating probation on a 2006 burglary conviction in Washington County. Assistant State’s Attorney Leon Debes told Beachley that Grapes faces up to 10 years in that case.

Debes also noted that Grapes has similar charges pending in West Virginia.

Scott Anthony Carlson, 40, of North Cannon Avenue, is also scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, Debes told Beachley.

Carlson was an alleged accomplice with Grapes in the Jan. 16 break-in at a home on Lehmans Mill Road that netted a rifle, two laptops and jewelry worth over $12,000, Debes said.

An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt by a defendant, but an acknowledgment that the prosecution could prove its case if it went to trial.

“Mr. Grapes would have testified that it was Mr. Carlson who was going into the homes” and steal belongings, defense attorney David Harbin told Beachley,  explaining the rationale behind the Alford plea.

In reading from the statement of facts, Debes said that Carlson had told police that he and Grapes went to the house on Jan. 16, but that Grapes entered the house and came out with a pillow case full of stolen goods. They then drove to Baltimore, where Grapes went into a junk-yard office and sold the stolen items.

Carlson told police that he was not allowed to enter the junk-yard office, Debes said.

Those circumstances were also related by Grapes in a monitored phone call he made from the Washington County Detention Center to a woman, Debes said.

There were also records putting Carlson’s cellphone in the vicinity of the victims’ home at the time of the burglary, and near the junkyard in Baltimore, Debes said.

Carlson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit third-degree burglary in July, according to court records.

After the sentencing, Debes said the junkyard was owned by David Paschall, one of 16 people indicted earlier this year by a federal grand jury in Baltimore on charges that included burglaries, as well as illegal and prescription drug dealing and home-invasion robberies.

The business, operating under the name Paschall’s Auto Body and Fender, was alleged to be central to the criminal activities conducted by the 16 defendants in that case, according to a July news release from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

In reading Grapes’ criminal record, Debes listed 10 convictions, including another burglary in 1997, along with thefts, assaults, and drug possession.

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