Jacksonville Witness Sentenced to Prison for Theft and Burglary

In Florida, grand theft, burglary, and dealing in stolen property are felony crimes that may result in a long prison sentence.  The sentence depends on a variety of factors.  This includes the degree of felony, the amount of charges pending, the facts of the case, and the defendant’s criminal history.  The court also takes into consideration mitigating and aggravating factors.

A Jacksonville burglary charge can be a first, second, or third degree felony.  A burglary to an unoccupied structure or conveyance is a third-degree felony under Florida law.  This same law increases burglary to an occupied dwelling to a second-degree felony.  A Jacksonville grand theft charge is usually a third-degree felony, but this can increase depending on the value of the property stolen.

With certain types of Jacksonville theft or burglary cases, it is common to see a person arrested for a few different charges, such as grand theft, dealing in stolen property, and false verification of ownership.  Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may face a Duval County Jail or Florida State Prison sentence.  The defendant may be eligible for probation.  This is something that will be discussed during the negotiations between the Assistant Duval County State Attorney assigned to the case and the Jacksonville criminal lawyer defending the case.  It will also depend on the judge presiding over the case, as the judge must approve the sentence.  Even if the defendant initially avoids a prison sentence with a probation term, prison is still possible if he or she violates probation in Jacksonville.

Today, I read an article on First Coast News about a state’s witness that is serving 7 years in prison for violating his probation.  Shawn Atkins was a key witness for the Duval County State Attorney’s Office in the Michael Dunn trial.  Just days before Michael Dunn shot Jordan Davis at a gas station in Jacksonville, Atkins violated his probation.  “He was homeless, living out of his truck, and just stopped at a gas station on Jacksonville’s Southside to let his girlfriend use the restroom.”  Atkins helped the police by memorizing and giving Dunn’s tag number to the gas station cashier.  Then, he immediately left the scene with his girlfriend.  Atkins explained why he left, “I was on probation but I violated it 5 days before on the 19th. Didn’t go because I was homeless, had no money, had no job.”  Naturally, “he was terrified if he waited around for police to arrive they would find out he had violated his probation and he would be arrested.”  “He ended up giving police a statement, and with that tag number he memorized police were able to go to track down Dunn.”  He was arrested months later on unrelated charges, including several counts of dealing in stolen property, burglary, grand theft, and false verification of ownership to a pawnbroker.

The question that many people have is whether or not Atkins was given special treatment for testifying on behalf of the prosecution.  First Coast News was able to answer this question in his interview:

“While [Atkins] agreed to testify for the State Attorney’s Office as a key witness to the fatal encounter that left Davis dead he was also being prosecuted by the same office one county over, and ended up being sentenced to 7 years in prison. ‘In my almost 33 years now I’ve never had anything develop the way Shawn Atkins did. We’ve had a lot of inmates testify, sometimes they are connected to the case and sometimes they are not. I have never had anybody who was a witness never let us know that our own office was prosecuting him in the county to the south, Clay County, never asked for help just took his time, went off to prison and still came back twice to testify,’ said Corey. He did ask after the first trial if prosecutors could help reduce his sentence but said he was told no. Now his only option is to file a motion asking the judge presiding over his case to reduce his sentence for giving the State substantial assistance by testifying at both of Dunn’s trials.”

Comments are closed.