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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Man slapped with 10-year sentence for wire theft, burglary conspiracy

Sonny Babauta, a 21-year-old man convicted of conspiring with others to steal copper wires and other items from a warehouse in Afetnas, was slapped yesterday with a 10-year prison sentence.

Babauta was ordered to immediately start serving his sentence. He was given credit for time served.

“Law-abiding citizens of the CNMI cry out for justice against the plague of thefts, burglaries, and robberies,” said Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho.

The judge said he imposed the full maximum sentence of 10 years because justice requires an effective deterrence.

For two counts of burglary, Babauta was sentenced each to the full maximum of 10 years in prison. For two counts of conspiracy to commit burglary, he was sentenced each to the full maximum of 10 years in prison. For two counts of theft, he was sentenced each to the full maximum of five years in prison. For two counts of conspiracy to commit theft, he was sentenced each to the full maximum of five years in prison. The total maximum sentence as to all charges is 60 years in prison.

Camacho ordered all sentences to run concurrently, which means Babauta will serve just 10 years, to be served without the possibility of parole, probation, early release, work release, weekend release, or any other similar program.

Assistant attorney general Chemere McField had recommended a 15-year sentence without parole, while defense counsel Joaquin Torres recommended a sentence of 5 to 7 years in prison with the possibility of parole.

Babauta and his mother, who cried, begged the court for leniency.

Camacho said there can be no justice without appropriate punishment. He said Babauta and three others conspired and broke into the victim’s premises not once but twice on the same night.

The judge said Babauta and his co-conspirators stole and destroyed thousands of dollars worth of property, which they sold for a grand total of $120.

“What did these defendants do after all this destruction? Did the defendants buy milk for a starving baby? No. Did the defendants buy medicine for a sick child? No. The defendants split the money in front of a poker parlor and went in to play on the poker machines,” he said.

A jury found Babauta guilty of all charges on Nov. 29, 2013.

Babauta’s three co-conspirators—Jeffrey Lizama, Matthias Salisban, and Fiden Hamo—all pleaded guilty to burglary as part of a plea deal with the government.

Camacho has already sentenced Lizama and Salisban to the full maximum term of 10 years in prison. Hamo was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the burglary and for throwing rocks at a house in a separate case.

According to the prosecution, the four men twice entered the Han Nam warehouse, formerly known as the Onu Moda Factory, on Dec. 18 and 19, 2012, and stole copper wires, power tools, and other items.

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