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A man convicted of multiple thefts disputed the restitution to be paid in a hearing in Juneau Superior Court last week while a victim requested additional money be included for three stolen bags of medical marijuana.
Lester Hunt, 21, was sentenced in November 2010 to four months to serve on charges of theft, four years to serve for aiding or abetting burglary, six months for probation violation plus two years for another theft charge — plus restitution of nearly $10,000.
Hunt testified before Judge Patricia Collins on Tuesday that he and his wife, Chantel Epstein, 21, and younger brother Bobby Ray Hunt, 20, broke into the homes of Gary Constantine and Sheldon Winters in May 2010. Under questioning from his attorney, Natasha Norris, Hunt said the purpose was to obtain money to buy drugs and that the items were pooled together at the end of the heists and pawned.
Hunt said items stolen from Winters included a wedding ring, jewelry, and his son’s game systems, but he denied taking $500 in cash that was being saved was so the boy could buy a car. The burglars had pried open a window to gain entry.
Winters testified to assistant district attorney Amy Williams that the money was given to his son for his 16th birthday, was kept in his son’s room and the car was very important for his son.
Hunt said stolen items from Constantine included coin collections, more than $4,500 in cash, oxycodone pills, marijuana and scales. Hunt denied taking a $1,700 laptop computer, a $449 guitar and $275 in gold coins. A grand jury report states $6,000 in cash, $3,000 in antique gold coins and $10,000 in antique gold chains were missing.
Hunt said Epstein and a juvenile entered Constantine’s house under the guise of using the bathroom and stole medications. In another episode, Epstein and the juvenile said they were out of gas and Constantine drove them to a gas station while Hunt and his brother ransacked the house. A traffic stop on Epstein later that day found drugs prescribed to Constantine for severe back pain caused from falling off a roof.
“But it was the cash that ruined me,” Constantine said. “The stock market was tanking so I took all my cash out of the bank.”
Constantine said he has a medical marijuana license and what isn’t mentioned in the restitution was the three quarters of an ounce of marijuana taken — valued at $375.
“It wasn’t illegal,” Constantine said. “There is no way to legally purchase it but it did cost me money.”
Collins asked him if he bought it at a pharmacy in Juneau.
“Unfortunately the state of Alaska has no set-up for procuring that,” Constantine said. “Mr. Hunt might be my dealer one of these days.”
A law which took effect in 1999 mandates all patients using medical marijuana must be enrolled in the state patient registry and possess a valid medical marijuana identification card. Patients may legally possess no more than one ounce of usable marijuana, and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants, of which no more than three may be mature.
Constantine said he has lived in his house for five years and never locked the door. Now he has full-time roommates, locks the door and doesn’t answer it after dark.
“I really take offense at the way you guys do these burglaries,” Constantine told Hunt. “Maybe if you had some class about it instead of putting some 14-year-old kid up to using the bathroom and needing gas and taking advantage of some old busted up guy like me.”
Constantine told Hunt to tell all his cronies that he was off prescription meds now and in serious pain. Noticing Hunt was talking to his attorney Constantine spoke loudly,
“I would appreciate it if you paid attention to me while I am speaking. I want to let you know you impacted my life and the time you serve in jail allows you to do something constructive with you life instead of being the little menace to the community you have been. I don’t hold any malice toward you. You’re a young man, there are a lot better things for you to be doing with your life.”
Collins allowed Hunt to address Winters and Constantine before they left the courtroom.
“I am sorry I entered your guy’s homes,” Hunt said. “It wasn’t the right thing to do, but I was influenced and not myself. I am going to learn from my mistakes in jail and do better.”
Constantine accepted the apology and thanked Hunt for admitting to the theft of the pot,
“It is all I have left to battle my pain since you guys took my oxycodone I don’t even want that stuff in my house any more. Marijuana is all I have left to stop the pain.”
Norris made a closing statement concerning Winter’s $500, saying his son was young, the last time Winters had seen the money was a week earlier, and this group of thieves was taking numerous items and pooling it for drug purchases.
Norris said since Hunt was the dealer’s contact that money would have been in his possession. Norris said Hunt was consistent in all his testimony and Constantine wavered. Norris also contested the laptop and guitar and questioned the legality of the marijuana license.
Collins said Hunt would be in prison for a long time and had been forthcoming in his admitting to the crimes and what was stolen.
“A lot of the arguments in this case call for me to assume that there is honesty among thieves,” Collins said.
Collins said the burglary in the homes involved at least three people and Hunt may want to believe the others involved were all honest with him.
Hunt really did not have first-hand knowledge of what was stolen and more likely than not, the $500 dollars that was there before the burglary and gone after the burglary was a result of the burglary, Collins said
Collins also said she was impressed the victims contacted police when they found items previously reported stolen. Collins also said while some of the values may have changed in what was believed to be stolen, she was not increasing the restitution but it also was not going down.
“I hope you were listening really closely to the testimonies, Mr. Hunt,” Collins said. “Nothing would make these two victims happier than for you to make good.”
Epstein pleaded guilty in November to burglary, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and theft for a combined sentence of eight years, more than five of which will be suspended. Bobby Ray Hunt pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and received four years with two suspended. Collins sentenced Lester Hunt to four years, 10 months in prison for theft, aiding or abetting burglary and a probation violation. He will also have a suspended sentence of six years. All three defendants will be liable for restitution.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.