SOUTH BEND — He was going to school, working to support his children and a member of a deeply religious family.
He was a drug addict, a four-time convicted felon and a thief so bothersome that police placed a GPS tracker on his car to prove his guilt.
On Tuesday, the two halves of 49-year-old Reed Pitchford’s life collided in a St. Joseph County courtroom, and it was up to Senior Judge William Albright to decide which half was going to leave.
But which half to believe?
To hear defense attorney Charles Lahey explain it, Pitchford’s crime — he was charged with breaking into eight garages last spring in the River Park neighborhood, and stealing mostly lawn equipment — wasn’t that bad.
“These were garages he was breaking into,” Lahey noted for the judge. “Not houses.”
And while Lahey didn’t hide Pitchford’s criminal past — he has four previous felony convictions, all for burglary and theft; plus other misdemeanors dating back to the 1980s — the attorney also pointed to Pitchford’s positive attributes.
“He plead guilty to breaking in the garages, and he helped police by confessing in the case,” Lahey said, adding that the burglaries were a result of Pitchford’s drug addiction.
Despite that addiction, Lahey said, Pitchford was also attending classes at Ivy Tech Community College to become an auto mechanic and was supporting his children with a job at Texas Roadhouse.
“And immediately after he was taken into custody he was assigned to be a trusty in the jail,” said Lahey, referencing a position inmates can have in which they take on extra duties, such as cleaning and maintenance work.
Because of all those positive attributes, Lahey argued Pitchford should be placed on community corrections and not sent to prison
“Not a lot of good could be had,” Lahey told the judge, “by furthering his incarceration.
‘He’s been a burglar’
Deputy prosecutor Mark Roule, however, had a different take.
Roule said that Pitchford’s life of crime — while often petty — had real victims, and real consequences. “A lot of his victims were elderly folks on fixed incomes, who can’t afford to replace $900 in lawn equipment,” Roule said.
Roule said Pitchford’s four other felonies, dating back to 1997, were an indication he hadn’t learned from his past behavior. “He’s been a burglar or thief his entire life,” Roule told the judge.
Roule asked Albright to consider the fact that Pitchford had been charged with eight crimes — which he admitted to confessing — but had accepted a deal in which he would plead guilty to just two counts, as long as he paid restitution to all the victims.
Roule said the proper sentence would be a six-year sentence for each count, to run consecutively, meaning a total sentence of 12 years.
Pitchford, when it was his turn to speak to Albright, begged the judge for another chance — saying he wasn’t the man he used to be, both physically and spiritually.