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One of four men arrested in connection to a string of car break-ins in James City County will not spend more time in jail for the crimes.
Austin Peterson, 20, was sentenced to five years in prison on a charge of grand larceny greater than $200 stemming from his role in a series of car break-ins last summer in James City County which victimized up to 100 people.
Circuit Court Judge R. Bruce Long suspended all five years of the sentence, saying the 29 days Peterson had spent in custody after his initial arrest were a sufficient wake-up call.
“Now you’re a convicted felon,” Long said to Peterson. “That’s something that’s going to hang with you for the rest of your life.”
Peterson pleaded guilty to the grand larceny charge in June, and agreed to pay $2,318.42 in restitution to the victims of the thefts. As part of the plea deal, a conspiracy to commit grand larceny charge was dropped.
Several witnesses, including James City County Deputy Chief of Police Steve Rubino, testified Peterson was a normal teenager who “fell in with the wrong crowd,” while defense attorney Steven J. Roberts characterized the incidents as a combination of “drugs, alcohol and immaturity.”
Between July 30 and Sept. 11, 2014, Peterson, David Hartman, Aaron Lee and Terrence White broke into vehicles and stole and pawned a variety of items, including jewelry, cash and firearms. A fifth man, Christian Bearisto, was arrested and pleaded guilty to pawning several of the stolen items.
The break-ins affected the neighborhoods of Scott’s Pond, Kingsmill, St. George’s Hundred, Stonehouse, Greensprings West, Windsor Forest, Williamsburg West, Settler’s Mill, Great Woods, Wellington, Fenwick Hills and Graylin Woods.
Police caught a break in the case when a resident of St. George’s Hundred saw two individuals, identified in court documents as Lee and Peterson, rummaging through a car on Wellington Circle in the neighborhood and through the resident’s daughter’s car.
Based on that information, police found Peterson and Lee at the Star gas station in the upper part of James City County, leading to their eventual arrest. Browser history on Peterson’s cell phone showed he had searched for information on Omega Seamaster watches, one of the items that had been reported stolen after a Sept. 4 break-in.
Lee pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft of a firearm and one felony count of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Hartman entered a plea of no contest to a grand larceny charge, which will be reduced to a misdemeanor charge if he remains in good behavior for the rest of the year. White pleaded guilty to theft of a firearm.