OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma County judge has slapped an Oklahoma City woman with a life prison sentence after she shoplifted two purses.
District Judge Ray Elliott imposed the term on 56-year-old Cecilia Cathleen Rodriguez on Friday after learning she was a heroin addict whose history of theft-related crimes dates to 1971. Her arrest record shows convictions in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Court records indicate that Rodriguez had pleaded guilty in January to grand larceny after being caught at a Dillard’s store stealing purses worth $275 and $380.
"It’s past time to say, ’Enough is enough.’ She needs to be warehoused for the rest of her life," Elliott said. "She’s a one-person crime wave."
Elliott also revoked Rodriguez’s probation in a 2000 larceny case, which effectively added 19 years to her life prison term.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Chris Daniels, said his client supported a drug habit through shoplifting and has never held a steady job. A presentencing report prepared for Elliott noted the Rodriguez cared for her mother and lived off of disability checks and food stamps.
In the report, a probation and parole officer wrote that Rodriguez’s "need to support her addition overpowers the remorse that she expresses for the crimes she has committed."
Rodriguez’s mother, 78-year-old Geneva Gabriel, said the judge’s decision was "all wrong" and that her daughter needed treatment for her drug addiction.
"She hasn’t done any violent crime," Gabriel said. "She has a problem. ... Prison’s not going to help her. She’s been in and out so many times. She’s a good girl. She just needs help. She has seizures."
It’s not the first time Rodriguez has been imprisoned for theft, and she also was sentenced for an assault in 1983, although Daniels said some of those crimes were committed by others using Rodriguez’s name.
Elliott called Rodriguez a "poster child" for why thieves should be sent to prison.
"We’ve got to do something," the judge said. "She’s costing every hard-working taxpayer in this state money because these businesses have to raise prices because thieves like her come and steal because, I guess, they’re too lazy to go to work."
Daniels said he would ask Elliott in a year to reduce Rodriguez’s sentence.
"It costs a ton of money to lock somebody up for that long," Daniels said.
By the Associated Press
March 21, 2009