Judge imposes harsh punishment on thief

Published 8:52 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

COURTLAND—A Franklin man who was convicted in August of a variety of crimes associated with stealing catalytic converters from two Courtland businesses was sentenced Tuesday to more than twice the time in prison that is called for under state guidelines.

Southampton County Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker told the defendant, “It’s time to protect the public from you” before setting the punishment. “These folks behind you have a right to be secure in their persons and property,” he added, motioning to the courtroom observers.

Parker sentenced Jason Leyda to a total of 32 years in prison, with all but seven years suspended, for the five recent felony convictions. He revoked Leyda’s probation on two former charges, re-invoking two five-year sentences and suspending all but four years on each.

Leyda must serve the sentences consecutively, meaning he will serve at least nine years for the Southampton crimes. He also must pay court costs and make restitution to his victims, T&A Repairs and Rawlings Mechanical Corp.

The sentences also are to be served consecutively with two-and-a-half years worth of time he earned in June for grand larceny and breaking and entering convictions in Isle of Wight County, Judge Parker said.

“The criminal activity doesn’t even slow down to a drip,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Edwards said in arguing for a tough sentence above the state’s guidelines for Leyda’s five newest Southampton charges. “It just keeps right on running.”

Even Leyda’s defense attorney was unable to hide from his client’s negative history with the law, noting as he began to question Leyda about why he felt he should receive a brief sentence, “We’ve handled these cases long enough that I can call you by your first name.”

Leyda said he’d “had a rough time” in life, getting mixed up with drugs and people who led him astray. The judge replied that he had been unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions.

Virginia sentencing guidelines called for a total prison time of, at most, a little more than four years. Leyda’s attorney asked for less. Edwards asked the judge to impose a sentence totaling eight years.

Parker, however, declined both suggestions, sentencing Leyda to an even more time than the prosecutor had sought.

For Leyda’s breaking and entering charge, he received 10 years in jail, with eight suspended; for two grand larceny charges, he received five years in jail, with four suspended on each; for a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, he received five years in jail, with all suspended; for a charge of receiving a stolen firearm, he was sentenced to five years, with four suspended; and for a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, he was sentenced to the state’s mandatory two years. It made for a total of nine years in prison on the new and old Southampton charges.