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Man, 27, convicted of Woodside burglaries, sentenced to 33 years in prison

Original post made on Oct 21, 2014

Justin Ralph Mitchell, 27, of Redwood City, who was convicted in June of two Woodside residential burglaries, was sentenced to 33 years in state prison on Friday, Oct. 17.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 10:49 AM

Comments (60)

Posted by lock him up
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2014 at 11:15 am

A track record like that shows that he is beyond rehabilitation. Throw away the key.

Posted by Max
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Thirty-three years is absurd. Murderers and rapists get less. Repeat drunk drivers get less. When criminals know that this is the sort of sentence they'll get, they have little to lose by attacking or shooting at the police. Why are property crimes treated more harshly than crimes against a person? Just shows where our values lie. (Yes, I do agree he should get a stiff sentence, but 33 years is over the top.)

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I also think this sentence is a bit over the top, apparently driven by the 3-strikes law that mandates specific sentences for specific crimes. The cost of this "justice" to us taxpayers is going to be over $47,000/year and over $1,500,000 over his 33 year lockup. Web Link
Seems there should be a better way of punishing this anti-social behavior that also ends up punishing us as well.

Posted by Srini
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Max, I agree, It is more time than violent criminals often get. That just says that we are too easy on violent criminals. It doesn't mean that we should also become easier on career criminals. He got what he deserved, and now let's make sure the violent ones are taken out of society permanently. We can start by paying more attention to the judges we vote for, as well as the mindset of the politicians who appoint other judges.

Posted by Srini
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Steve, what do you suggest? It will certainly cost more to have a guy like this to have psychiatric care the rest of his life, at the expense of taxpayers, while he runs free to continue to be the menace to society he has chosen as his vocation. That will also require a significant amount of law enforcement overtime, chasing after his antics. Don't forget, even though his crimes have not been violent (yet), he still impacts people's lives.......loss of personal property, invasion of personal space, and leaving emotional scars and fears that may also require long term therapy. Don't dismiss the impact of his actions on the victims.

Posted by WP
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Oct 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

The punishment does seems harsh but he's a repeat offender and it's hard to imagine that if he's put away for a short sentence he wouldn't just come back and try it all over again. Our house was burgled a couple of years ago and they stole thousands of dollars worth of technology and our daughter's piggy bank, and never caught the perpetrators. It could well have been this guy. He's only 27 she's still in the sweet spot of being young, dumb and aggressive. It's a shame he's a repeat offender but he was on parole when he committed these crimes. This is the type of person the 3 strikes rule was written for, and it was not a single isolated incident, it was a spree that included identity theft. He's not safe to have in the community, so he'll have to spend a lot of years in jail. Too bad, but he did the crimes, repeatedly, with malice of forethought. There are bad guys in the world and he's on of them.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Srini -
I'm no expert on crime & punishment but, when in doubt, I look to Scandinavia to get an idea for humane, forward-looking policies that benefit both people and society. Once again, it looks like they've figured out a better way of punishment that we might consider:
"On Bastoy prison island in Norway, the prisoners, some of whom are murderers and rapists, live in conditions that critics brand 'cushy' and 'luxurious'. Yet it has by far the lowest reoffending rate in Europe"
Full story at: Web Link
The rate of incarceration in Norway is 72 per 100,000
The rate of Incarceration in the US is 707 per 100,000
Nuff said.

Posted by lock him up
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

These are minor non-violent victimless crimes. The article clearly states that he was convicted of multiple violent felonies. I might be willing to be lenient if the victims supported it, but the article does not say any of the victims are willing to give him a break.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2014 at 6:21 pm

@Lock him up -
Would you be so hard-hearted if it was your 27-year-old son being locked up for 33 years? I don't see how you can describe his burglary as a violent felony when no one was hurt; in fact the victims weren't even awakened by the burglar. Where was the violence pray tell?
The 3-strikes law was a huge mistake as evidenced by our bulging prisons (We're #1!, We're #1!) and this seems to be another example of how its emphasis on retribution rather than rehabilitation condemns more & more people to lives behind bars.

Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Way over the top when that hideous criminal Tran made people lose their homes in staggering financial kids and she serves 16 months. Yes, this guy is a scumbag, but he wasn't violent in the commissions of his crimes. They were property crimes. Did he use weapons? Doesn't sound like it.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Hi - I'm Jeff from Perth, Australia
Last year an aboriginal man broke into my home while me, my wife and two young girls were sleeping. He picked our door locks. He stole my car, 42 inch TV, cash, handbags etc. I had no home insurance. He was caught while using my car to break into another home that night. He clamed that he was so hgh on Ice that he did not know what he was doing and could not name his accomplices.
The Police told me me that at the time he was on parole for other burgalries. Because he was an aboriginal and had a hard life they put him on a community course ... and then let him go again.
Dear America - can Australia please have some of you tough sentencing laws?

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Sorry for your property losses. Since the guy's out on the streets again you might want to consider getting some insurance.

Posted by Jasmine
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2014 at 12:43 am

33 years is beyond belief. I think he's need mental health help.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

He deserves to do some time, but 33 years is an absurd injustice for crimes that didn't involve hurting anyone. Par for the course in our ridiculous "justice" system, of course.

Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 22, 2014 at 3:44 pm

This person is a waste of our planetary resources & should be incarcerated, but not for 33 years. During the incarceration, he should be doing some kind of work that might help repay the cost of his room, board, medical & dental care.

This calls into question the ludicrously light sentences handed out for careless, reckless (& sometimes drunk) drivers who actually kill or permanently maim people. "Oh, it's an accident. My foot slipped" and "I didn't see him crossing the street" have killed or done terrible injury, also permanently ruining any sense of security for victims' families.

It's a very flawed legal system that punishes property crimes so much more severely than crimes against persons. Oh, I forgot, it wasn't a crime because it was "an accident." One convicted child molester from Atherton got only 8 years imprisonment. How many DUIs are somehow contested then repealed to keep repeat offenders out of prison? One local and successful businessman has had 13 arrests for DUIs. He's still driving. (His lawyer is very good.)

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:06 pm

You all seem to be forgetting this guy was already ON PAROLE for similar crimes. If you don't understand what that means I'll explain. Parole is technically still incarceration. The person on parole is still considered "in custody" and as such is subject to search at any time, as well as many other conditions. It's also understood that while they are on parole committing crimes is a huge no no. This guy was on parole. This is a third strike for him due to his criminal history. He's lucky he wasn't sentenced to 25 years to life.

If you don't like the fact other criminals aren't sentenced more severely, talk to your elected representatives to change it.

Posted by Corrections or Condemnation?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm

According to a study by Wake Forest University, about 50 - 75% of our prison population is functionally illiterate, and estimates are that 85% of prisoners have a learning disability. So you can put people away for 15 years or 33 years years or whatever makes you feel better but eventually these folks will be out on the street breaking into someone else's living room because that's all they know how to do.

If we call our sentencing system a JUDICIAL system, let's make it fair, objective and moral. If we call our prison system a CORRECTIONS system, then let's provide education and training so we end up with a safer society at a much, much lower cost. Stopping this type of non-violent crime could be done effectively and humanely in 5 years. It's ridiculous to throw a 27-year-old unarmed thief in jail for 33 years.

Posted by CHRIS
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

I do not agree with a 33 year sentencing! This 27 year old who has a drug problem which should have been addressed years ago. This is a disease that needs to be treated. Instead our justice system just throws people like this behind bars with hardened criminals. What good is that going to do? Teach them how to be hardened criminals too?
I would like to know how this judge or prosecutor would feel if one of their children ended up in the same situation. Would they than feel a 33 year sentencing was fair?
It looks like he has spent many years behind bars never learning how to cope with his addiction, because as many know addiction causes people to do terrible things!
What a world we live in, we help every country but our own!

Posted by wcs
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

I agree with Max. Murderers get less. Drunk drivers who kill people get less.
This is crazy.

Posted by Mark Toshland
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Oct 23, 2014 at 8:59 am

I'm reading and hearing that this guy was a repeat (3 time) offender, and that some of his crimes have been violent. So 33 years is his sentence. What boggles my mind then is Oscar Pistorius, and his 5 year sentence, with a possibility of parole in 10 months. I know - one case is here in the U.S., and one case is in South Africa. And I realize there are many other factors in each case...........

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 23, 2014 at 9:43 am

pogo is a registered user.

Do a modest amount of research. This two time felon was hardly a non-violent offender.

Web Link

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

Your link is not very persuasive if you're trying to convince me that Justin is a violent person.
First, the article states that Justin rammed the police cars while attempting to get away from the two officers. Not very smart I agree but more indicative of a panicked young man than one attempting to do harm. The old guy who plowed into the two young boys in front of the Walgreens also panicked yet he wasn't charged with a violent crime, even though both boys were hurt far worse than the police officer who was released from hospital the same day. Seems to me that intent should matter equally in both cases yet Justin is facing 33 years in prison and the older guy just loses his license.
Second, this incident occurred 4 years ago when Justin was 23, an age when males still are subject to poor judgement as connections in the brain are still not complete. Web Link Was this an example of poor judgement? Yes, in spades, as I'm sure Justin would be the first to admit. But punishing him with a 3-strikes charge that effectively takes away his whole life seems way over the top and patently unfair.
Third, the article also mentions "drug charges", suggesting he may have been acting under the influence of something. Though I don't know it to be the case, drugs may well be the underlying cause of all his offenses. Wouldn't it be better to devote some small fraction of the $1.5 million that his 33 years in prison will cost to dealing with his drug problem, giving him a shot at a half-way decent life? Again I ask, if he were your son, would you be so cavalier in having him locked away until he's 60?
Just for reference, since
"The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. As of October 2013, the incarceration rate was 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world's population, it houses around 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Imprisonment of America's 2.3 million prisoners, costing $24,000 per inmate per year, and $5.1 billion in new prison construction, consumes $60.3 billion in budget expenditures." Web Link
This is not a productive use for our tax dollars and it's aa criminal use of the lives of our young people.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

pogo is a registered user.

Anyone who would DELIBERATELY ram a police car and then flee is a violent offender. He could have easily injured even killed those two police officers. That's like excusing someone who fired a gun at you because they missed. It's a violent act, very violent.

And comparing this two time felon to an elderly man who ACCIDENTALLY lost control of his car is beneath argument.

These are the three crimes - serious crimes - that we know he committed. I'm sure that except for these three unfortunate instances, he's been a boy scout.

That said, 33 years certainly seems excessive but he knew he was a two timer when he decided to commit additional felonies (while on parole, no less!). While expensive, housing him in a cage may spare other innocent victims from damage, injury and trauma.

Posted by Racquet Court
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

"The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. … the United States … houses around 25 percent of the world's prisoners. … costing $24,000 per inmate per year, and $5.1 billion in new prison construction, consumes $60.3 billion in budget expenditures."

Everyone sing! "…………… and the Home of the Freeeeeeeee!!"

For-profit prison/crooked judge documentary out earlier this year: Web Link

Disgusting. "Outsourcing to the free market" is just organized corruption and corporate welfare (for-profit prisons, KBR in Iraq, etc..)

This kid needs mental healthcare, and a reasonable sentence. Not a ruined life, that I have to pay for for the next 33 years.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Yeah, young males do really stupid things sometimes. Most of us get away with it and, usually, learn from it. Dear "probably not a Boy Scout" Justin didn't for whatever reason - drugs, upbringing, genetics, whatever. He clearly needs to be restrained (and retrained) - no question. But for 33 years!? Absolutely out of line.
I notice you don't want to grapple with the question "If he were your son . . ." You might have to consider him as a person with problems rather than as a thug who simply needs to be punished. That, it seems to me, is the more productive way approach to criminals, especially younger ones.
POGO, I expect more creative thoughts from you on how the US can begin to relinquish our world title for imprisoning more of our citizens than any other country. I mean you're not a defender of the 3-strikes mentality are you?

a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

The police car ramming incident is a tall twisted tale. The real facts are not printed in all the articles. Justin did nothing to hurt that police officer in fact it was the other way around. The police rammed him, threw him on the ground and rammed his face into broken glass. Justin ended up in the hospital that day with shards of glass in his face. Where is that printed. He has never physically hurt anyone nor has he ever carried a weapon. His crime is being addicted to meth. A disease that has taken so many. Our justice system is not helping the situation. These young people need serious counseling and drug rehabilitation. I do have empathy for the victims of his crimes but lets just say 33 years is way over the top for non violent behavior.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

@Know Your Facts -
Thanks for filling in the picture. I suspected drugs had to be behind his repeated failed burglaries. My sympathy goes out to him and his family & friends.
If we can afford to spend $1.5 million to keep him locked away for 33 years, why can't we spend a fraction of that to see that he gets serious drug treatment, perhaps in a facility that the rich & famous go to when they screw up? In the end we save ourselves much money and, more importantly, save a life that is now about to be thrown down the toilet.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

pogo is a registered user.

INCIDENT 1: "An officer was injured in Redwood City on Wednesday afternoon when the driver of a stolen vehicle rammed two police cars in an alleged effort to escape capture, police said. At about 12:45 p.m., Redwood City police and a San Mateo County Vehicle Theft Task Force unit were conducting surveillance in the 2300 block of Cheshire Way when a man later identified as Justin Ralph Mitchell, 22, of Redwood City, was spotted getting into a stolen car, police said. An additional Redwood City police car arrived, prompting Mitchell to try to flee, police said. He quickly pulled away from the curb and rammed a marked police car and an unmarked task force vehicle, injuring an officer, according to police."

INCIDENT 2: "A Redwood City man has been arrested in connection with more than a dozen burglaries in Redwood City and Woodside, police said. Justin Mitchell, 26, was initially arrested this week in connection with a vehicle burglary in Redwood City that occurred on Tuesday, according to Redwood City police. The car in that burglary, parked on the 3600 block of Haven Avenue, had its window shattered and a purse containing several credit cards was stolen, police said. Mitchell, a parolee, was identified as a suspect by surveillance video showing a vehicle registered to him. When police contacted Mitchell at his home on the 2400 block of Edith Avenue, a search turned up narcotics, items purchased with stolen credit cards and several stolen items taken from other burglaries, according to police.
Investigators have now connected him to more than a dozen burglaries, including a number of vehicle and residential burglaries that occurred in the town of Woodside over the Columbus Day weekend, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation continues, and anyone with information is asked to call Redwood City or Woodside police."

I'll trust the published records over an anonymous poster on this site (while I'm anonymous, I'm not trying to correct published records). You know, these incidents don't sound much like "stupid things" that "a young male does" to me, but maybe I hung with a different crowd than you did. As I said, a real boy scout, this one.

With regard to this being only a "property crime," if you've ever returned home to find your front door in splinters, your most personal possessions strewn about, missing credit cards and cash, your cherished items missing and then suffered the subsequent trauma of personal violation, lack of safety and dealing with police, courts, banks, credit card companies, and your insurance company, then you know there is far more damage inflicted on victims than simply replacing that stolen flat screen TV. For that reason, I reserve my sympathies for the victims, not the perpetrator who inflicted such terror on an innocent party.

With regard to this criminal being just a poor addict who needs help, every California prison has drug rehabilitation programs. Perhaps the third time will be his charm.

With regard to my position on three strikes, the original intent of that voter initiative was for long sentences for VIOLENT felons. Like the vast majority of California citizens, I support that. That initiative clearly morphed into something else thanks to our legislature and elected officials.

a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Sounds like you are the judge and prosecutor. Your pulling articles that we have all read and that were written by individual who got their facts from hearsay. There are many details left out of those articles.
I am not defending the crimes I am stating the time given is over the TOP!
Rapist, pedophiles, murders are getting less time.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm

You don't mention sources for your quotations but I presume they're out of local newspapers, themselves paraphrasing what's in the police report. So, considering that the source for these "official" reports is rather one-sided, it's refreshing to hear another side to the story from someone who, even though anonymous, seems to know Justin. Their comments ring true because there is agreement with the published record ("Mitchell was treated for minor injuries") and because they seemed to know of his addiction to meth (it's been the ruin of many a poor boy).

You point out that prisons have drug treatment programs but you don't mention their effectiveness. My own modest amount of research suggests that it ain't that great:
"Only 61% of state correctional facilities provide substance abuse treatment. With insignificant federal funds to support residential substance abuse treatment in prisons, the percentage of state prisoners participating in such programs has greatly declined. All in all, prisoners are not getting the drug treatment programs that would reduce their drug abuse and criminal behavior." Web Link
Of course neither of us know if Justin received an drug counseling - before, during, or after prison. That would be pertinent in evaluating just how bad an egg he is. Nor do we know his predilection for violence, though if you believe anonymous, it's not high. Nothing in the reporting makes me think he's violent as the only direct confrontation he had in ramming the police cars can as easily be attributed to panic by a young, drug-addled male.
The only other justification is the legal definition that defines burgling a home while someone is home as a violent act, even though the victims are never awakened, let alone harmed. It's these kind of Orwellian definitions that account for our full-to-bulging prisons, that waste our wealth and our people in keeping them full and that bring shame on us as a country that should know better.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Property crimes probably is more devastating when you live in a community that is insulated from the rest of humanity.

Why do burglars come to Woodside? Because that is where the good stuff is. I have read local reports that residents of communities like Woodside may feel so comfortable in their insulated domains that they forgo the locking of doors, despite the advice of police.

Is owning the good stuff, being able to afford the good stuff, free of risk? Apparently not. Is extravagant spending? I don't think so. Maybe owning the good stuff brings along its own baggage.

I don't know the answer to this question, but I wonder if property crimes have the same gravity in communities where the acquisition of it is not tinged with avarice because it is so exclusive.

Posted by Racquet Court
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Poor boy or not, do the crime, do the time. But 33 years is absurd and guarantees that if he survives (without AIDS, for example,) he will be useless to society. Pay for him for 33 years, pay for him in other ways after that.

Meth is evil. But it ain't just the ruin of many a POOR boy. Ask the rent-a-cops patrolling all the high-end high schools around here.

Well, I don't practice santeria.

Posted by Racquet Court
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I ain't got no crystal ball.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 24, 2014 at 4:15 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Know the Facts - if you truly did (know the facts) then you would know that I'm not judge and jury. This criminal already HAD a judge and jury who found him guilty - at least three times and sentenced him. I'm only commenting and responding.

Steve: The source of those reports is a published article by an independent person who reviewed the documents and interviewed the parties. Feel free to take the word of an anonymous poster who "seems to know Justin" (an ironic conclusion because he/she repeated things stated earlier on this very blog!)over that independent source. Regarding your conclusion that we shouldn't read into his burglaries - when the residents were at home! - because he didn't harm them. See my earlier comment about excusing a shooter because he missed. It would make sense in your Orwellian world. If a person is willing to ram a police car and break into occupied homes, I'd just assume see him in prison for a while.

Joe - actually the crime rate in Woodside is extraordinarily low. Want high crime? Go to the poor towns. Insulated? Seriously? That home break-in I described wasn't fiction. It happened to me in my home when I was 14 years old... and we lived in a very modest section of town. And if I have any "good stuff," it's because I earned it. No meth addict has a right or excuse to ever take what's mine or yours.

Yes, 33 years may be a steep price to pay but he knew he was a two striker and he was on parole - that means he's still serving his original sentence when he re-offended. Write your state assemblyman or senator.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 5:38 pm

POGO - You wrote:
"The source of those reports is a published article by an independent person who reviewed the documents and interviewed the parties."
Can you provide the reference if this is indeed a published article and perhaps share the name of the independent source? You wouldn't want them to remain anonymous would you? Credibilty and all that . . .
And when you say that they "interviewed the parties" I have to wonder what parties you mean because nothing they wrote seemed to reflect the viewpoint of the arrested party. Police? Yes, clearly. Burglary victims? Probably. Man serving 33 years in prison? Not that I can tell.
And your comment that 'No Your Facts' was simply repeating things said elsewhere on this blog is puzzling. Nowhere else did I read that Justin's car was rammed by the police, that Justin sustained injuries when the police pressed his face into the broken glass, that Justin was not know to be violent, that Justin was a Meth addict. These are all pertinent claims that, if true, cast this case in a somewhat different light. Would that 'No Your Facts' could follow up with some corroboration, especially regarding Justin's meth habit. You rightly point out that Justin was already a 2-striker and should have been aware of the seriousness of a 3rd offense. But if he was a meth addict, then was he really able to make a rational decision? As I understand it, meth affects the frontal lobe, which controls judgement, impulse control, and the ability to determine consequences. From what I read, a meth addict is incapable of thinking rationally. Web Link Therefore, if this is this is true, should he even have been in a court? Or rather, should he have been remanded to a mental hospital much as an insane person judged guilty of a crime would be?
I wish more people who actually knew Justin could contribute to this discussion to learn what he was like before he got involved in crime and to confirm whether he was a meth addict. The more I learn about this case the more perplexed I am by the extreme sentence Justin received as it's seeming to be more a case of retribution delivered than of justice served.

a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 24, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Steve, thank you!
I am not on here to argue back and forth with Pogo. So again all I will say is there are a whole lot of facts that people do not know.
He needed help now he has 33 years.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm

And yet, our sheriff did no time for being in an illegal bordello.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 24, 2014 at 10:15 pm

pogo is a registered user.

There are FIVE mentions of drugs in this thread before Know The Facts mentioned it. His mention of it for the sixth time hardly confirmed his unique personal knowledge.

With regard to a press report, either the reporter made these facts up from a very vivid and prescient dream or got them from someone or report. I doubt the perp spoke because they never do on the advice of counsel. I'll take the facts as retold by an independent reporter with no ax to grind over an anonymous poseur... I mean poster.

I've observed that no one has noticed that even this guy's own attorney recommended a sentence of 15 YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS! Even the attorney recognized his client's culpability and long criminal record. And you've gotta believe he was low balling.

No, I'm not the judge or jury. Three juries have already convicted him and a real judge gave him this sentence. Hopefully, this poor, misunderstood, meth-head will think about his horrible life choices, apologize and compensate the people he's hurt and robbed, and perhaps even get some help. You guys can show sympathy and make all of the excuses you want, but thanks to a judge and jury, this guy is going to do all of that from behind bars where he cannot do any more damage to our community.

Oh, you wanted the links. Just google the guy's name. It's not that difficult and will take 0.46 seconds.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 9:45 am

Actually, mention of the particular drug Justin used (Meth) WAS a significant & new contribution to the discussion, given its highly addictive nature and the effect it has on making rational decisions. I note that these are observations that you clearly choose not to address, probably because it complicates your basic argument that Justin = thug = bad. It's this simplistic approach to crime that's been responsible for the "tough on crime" laws like 3-Strikes and that have filled our prisons to overflowing, costing us $billions each year in additional taxes and in taxes not collected from many prisoners who would otherwise be working & contributing to society.
Other countries have figured this out POGO! You do not have to lock people away for most of their adult lives to protect society from them - see my link to Norway's prison system in my second post. A more humane view of these people and a more humane approach to correcting the problems that led them to commit their crimes would significantly lower our prison populations and our costs and integrate many more troubled people back into our society. Other countries have figured this out, why can't the US? But then many of these same countries also consider it their responsibility to ensure healthcare for their citizens, providing them better care at less cost.
Maybe good outcomes aren't the real goal in this country. As I said previously, our system is more about retribution than it is about rehabilitation. Your comments only demonstrate how difficult it will be to effect any meaningful change.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

Thank you, Steve. Well put.

Posted by prison population
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2014 at 10:23 am

I don't want to pay for the largest prison population in the world. Maybe pogo can afford the taxes, but I can't.

Pogo - why do you think America deserves more prisoners per capita than every country? Is it drugs? Guns? Fear and paranoia perpetrated by the politicians and media? Americans are just naturally more thuggish? Corporate influence?

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2014 at 11:24 am

pogo is a registered user.

I think this guy is a thug and I'm just fine with him in prison.

Our prisons are overflowing because we incarcerate people for relatively minor drug offenses. I recall reading an article that more than 50% of people in federal prison are there because of drug offenses.

THAT IS NOT THE CASE HERE. In addition to his PRIOR multiple arrests and convictions - which included multiple counts of assaults and injuries to police officers - Justin Mitchell was recently convicted of TWENTY FELONIES. He is not a non-violent doper who was just peddling some weed. I thank and trust the jury and judge who, unlike all of us heard the witnesses and saw the evidence, for putting this guy away for a very long time. I would have been just as happy if he received the 15 years and 8 months recommended by his own attorney.

This guy is already a career criminal who has inflicted a lot of trauma, heartache, fear, and financial costs on our community. I have no problems allowing him the opportunity to consider his misdeeds while wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm

You say you think Justin is a thug, which he may well be. We can't really know though because we have no real insights as to Justin's character before he became involved with drugs, apparently Meth. Too bad the reporter didn't do a little more digging to tell us a bit more about Justin's background or even what those who spoke in his favor during the sentencing phase might have said about him.
If Justin was robbing prior to his experience with Meth, I'd tend to agree with you. However, if the burgling started subsequent to his Meth habit, I'd be more inclined to think it was the Meth acting and to give him the benefit of the doubt, remanding him to custody for a minimum sentence to include meth treatment and rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, neither judge nor jury have much discretion under 3-Strikes. "The process of direct democracy involved in enacting three-strikes represents a new involvement of the public in sentencing that was previously reserved only for the court system. Whereas there used to be more 'buffers' between the public and those with the power to make nuanced judgments regarding sentences, there has been a shift where the power of parole boards and judges has been reduced . . . The judicial flexibility of the court system at the judge’s discretion has been increasingly limited with the passing of this bill. The judges now are forced to implement certain judicial action regardless of their beliefs on what that outcome of the trial should be." Web Link
Other interesting statements on 3-Strikes from this link:
"California’s version of the Three-Strikes law [is] one of the harshest in the country, with only Georgia’s version coming close to equaling it. California’s version is seen to be more severe for three reasons:
First, it applies large sentencing enhancements for second as well as third felony convictions.
Second, it does not limit eligibility for the harshest sentences to those with criminal records for violent crimes but instead includes those with convictions for the much more common crime of residential burglary.
[Third], it greatly expands “the strike zone” by allowing the third strike, which leads to a 25-year-to-life term, to be any felony in the California Penal Code."
"California also leads the country in the most sentencing under the Three-Strikes law, with more than 90% of all 26 U.S. states with Three-Strikes sentencing occurring within the California boundaries."
Seems to me that Justin's case is a clear example of the failure of California's 3-Strikes law.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm

To summarize the previous post, Justin would likely have received a less harsh sentence in almost any other country in the western world and in any other state in the country, save Georgia. To be second only to Georgia is rarely something to be proud of.
And it's not like 3-Strikes has led to a reduction in crime: a study done ten years after the law went into effect showed that "the three strikes law had no significant effect on deterrence or incapacitation of crime." Web Link On the contrary, in 1990, before 3-Strikes was passed California incarcerated less than 100,000 people at a cost of $2.7 Billion. By 2011, [largely due to 3-Strikes mandatory sentencing requirement], the population had ballooned to 163,000 inmates housed at a cost of nearly $10 Billion. Web Link All this while state support to schools and Universities was repeatedly cut.
Can we agree that 3-Strikes has failed miserably and needs to be repealed and replaced with something more humane? Even Texas has seen the light: "When faced with a $2 billion prison expansion bill during a budget crisis in 2005, Texas chose to spend about $300 million to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centers, probation services and community supervision. The result was a nine percent drop in incarceration and a 12.8 percent drop in crime between 2005 and 2010." If Texas can do it, why not California?
Finally, the Wikipedia article above notes that: "there is some evidence that criminals on their last strike are more desperate to escape from police and therefore more likely to attack police." So what you took to be evidence of Justin's violent tendencies when he rammed the police cruiser while attempting to flee sounds more like the panicked reaction of a drug-addled young man desperate to avoid a third strike arrest. And it's apparently not at all an uncommon occurrence.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:26 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Anyone who deliberately rams his car into a police car to escape (and then flees) and who breaks into multiple homes while the home is occupied is a thug and a danger in my opinion. I have no information that anyone spoke on his behalf at sentencing.

He's been convicted of numerous felonies THREE SEPARATE TIMES... the latest for 20 FELONIES. His excuse may be a meth addiction; others blame unemployment, lack of education, poverty, no father, or abuse. In every case, they are just as guilty.

Again, a jury heard the evidence and convicted him on 20 of 21 counts. Again, his own attorney recommended 15 years and 8 months! I think the judge had some discretion and gave him 33 years.

My sympathies go with the victims who may never feel the same way after the personal violation this man perpetrated. And I'm just fine with him considering his crimes, apologizing to his victims, providing restitution, and getting help... from behind bars. He's proven he is a danger to our community.

At this point, this discussion is only repeated prior arguments. We can agree to disagree.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Pogo, the dimensions of your potential for compassion are stunning.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 5:05 pm

I actually don't think we disagree on the basic claim made here - that 33 years is NOT a reasonable sentence - you indicated as much earlier in the discussion. I also think you yourself question at least the efficacy of the 3-Strikes law, if not its fairness.
The extent of Justin's culpability is something neither of us can know. What we can strongly argue though is that he doesn't deserve such a draconian sentence. Jail time, yes. 33 years of his life? I simply don't think that's fair.
Do You?

Posted by deep knowledge of issues
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm

This has been an entertaining comment section to read. I have deep knowledge of the case and I would like to say the following:

1) Justin pleaded innocent, when in fact he was 100% guilty. Perhaps he received bad council, however his plea was his decision. As a result his case cost San Mateo citizens significant time and money. (the DA team, jury pool,the judge, the witnesses, police investigators, etc.). He challenged the system and he lost the bet.

2) Commenters who have more compassion for a long time petty criminal than their fellow tax paying citizens are an interesting breed of "bleeding heart".

3) Commenters that don't respect the property rights (stuff) of their fellow citizens scare me.

4) No one has mentioned the fact that Federal government has pushed California to reduce its prison population. Was Justin ready for his release into society when he was placed on parole? Clearly not.

5) For some of the "Justin supporters" - some questions for you, please be honest with yourself:
- Would you hire a "Justin" to do odd jobs at your home and trust him near family members?
- If you are an employer, would you hire a "Justin"? Is it worth the risk?
- For advanced thinkers - Do you think that the actions of "Justin's" result in cascade of more and more citizens buying firearms to protect themselves? Does that make you feel comfortable? Doesn't that create more problems (kids with access to guns).

6) Final thought, Norway is an absolutely ridiculous example for comparison. We live in California not Norway. Norway has incredible wealth from oil reserves (Web Link >$175,000 per citizen. Unlike the US (and California), Norway has limited immigration (which by the way takes criminal record into consideration) and can focus its education investment accordingly. If you believe that Norway should be our model, are you also comfortable supporting more drilling and fracking in California so that we may harness more of our energy wealth and focus it on better education and training for the future Justin's while they are still young?

Thanks for the entertainment !

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

deep knowledge:

great post. One thing that is ignored in this discussion is the so called "war on drugs" and the resultant destruction. It doesn't sound like this may be accurate in Justin's case, but in my experience in law enforcement, the "war" is lost and was long ago.

We need only look to prohibition to see what we are doing now with drugs. Stop the "war" and spend the money on treatment. If you decriminalize it the price comes down and the need to commit crime to support a habit is greatly reduced.

It's a fact that humans will use drugs. It's in our DNA. Nothing will stop that, only treatment will help the problem.

Our prisons would be greatly reduced in population if we stopped sending people there for using drugs.

That said, Justin was on parole. Only a career criminal or an idiot would continue to commit crimes under those conditions.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm

pogo is a registered user.

deep knowledge of issues -

Thank you for your post. I didn't know that he pleaded not guilty. Yes, he missed the opportunity to plea bargain.

With regard to your questions:
- Would you hire a "Justin" to do odd jobs at your home and trust him near family members? NEVER.
- If you are an employer, would you hire a "Justin"? Is it worth the risk? I HAVE HIRED EX-CONS BEFORE - ONE WAS FANTASTIC, THE OTHER NOT (I WON'T SAY MORE THAN THAT). IN THE CASE OF THREE TIME OFFENDER.... NO.

I obviously agree with you that Norway is not a great comparison to the diversity and size of the United States. It's like living in Compton and asking "why can't we just do it like Beverly Hills?"

Steve - as I said, I think 33 years is a very steep price to pay. But 20 felony convictions, some violent and several against the police, is not trivial or minor. As the previous poster noted, this criminal could have plea bargained. He knew the gamble and chose not to. That said, I think three strikes should be reserved for violent crimes which might not have helped in this case.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2014 at 11:36 pm

@Deep Knowledge -
Thank you for taking the time to post. Your portrait of Justin is certainly more sobering than the image I had in mind - much more similar to the thug Pogo described actually. One issue you don't mention is Justin's drug use - was he a meth addict as 'No Your Facts' claims? Did he receive treatment for drug use when initially jailed? How, if at all, did his drug use affect the jurors' decision?

2) It's not that I don't have sympathy for those whose homes Justin burgled, though I can see how you might assume as much since my comments were all about Justin, none about the victims. If the victims had included my friends or family or even myself, I'm sure my picture of Justin would be different and I'd have less concern about his sentence, though I like to think I'd still recognize 33 years as over the top. As it was, I focused on Justin because he was the one facing 33 years in prison, an absurd sentence considering his crimes weren't violent, at least in the common sense of that term.

3) I don't think I ever said anything regarding respecting the property rights of fellow citizens. For the record, I absolutely don't condone any of Justin's actions.

4) You raise a whole new topic here when you mention the federal court rulings mandating that California reduce its prison population, a population that far exceeds the capacity of our prisons to house and the prison health care system to care for. These are just some of the unforeseen results of the 3-Strikes initiative that the state will have to deal with in meeting the federal mandates. And that will mean that, like Justin, other prisoners will be paroled too early. Clearly, without enough money to provide adequate medical care. let alone prison space, the state has precious little left for drug treatment & rehabilitation programs. So, like Justin, the personal problems that led many to commit their crimes will have gone largely untreated when they are released.
My question to you is: what is your solution? We can't keep building more & more prisons to house the ever-expanding population as 3-Strikes turns misdemeanors into felonies, felonies into violent felonies, and 10-year sentences into 25-to-life. How do YOU propose that we unwind this system?

6) OK, you don't like Norway as an example cause it's too rich and too non-diverse, though I fail to see why either of these characteristics would preclude applying lessons Norwegians have learned about how prisoners respond positively to humane, rehabilitative treatment. But forget Norway for the moment. Instead, how about Texas? As I pointed out above, faced with a $2Billion bill for new prisons (probably also mandated by those pesky Feds), they instead opted to spend just 15% of that amount "to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centers, probation services and community supervision. The result was a nine percent drop in incarceration and a 12.8 percent drop in crime between 2005 and 2010."
As I asked earlier, if Texas can do it, why not California? Or is our system meant for retribution, not rehabilitation, and a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" is its operating ethos?

5) No, I would not hire Justin to do odd jobs around the house - I'm too much of a cheapskate. I do my own mowing, painting, planting, plumbing - everything up to electrical. I could get hurt doing electrical you know.

Posted by Damn liberals
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 7:45 am

"The result was a nine percent drop in incarceration and a 12.8 percent drop in crime between 2005 and 2010."


Damn liberals!!!

CALIF: In 1990, California spent $2.7 billion on corrections and incarcerated nearly 100,000 inmates. We now spend over $9.8 billion and incarcerate about 163,000.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 10:36 am

pogo is a registered user.

"No, I would not hire Justin to do odd jobs around the house - I'm too much of a cheapskate. I do my own mowing, painting, planting, plumbing - everything up to electrical. I could get hurt doing electrical you know."

Do you really think that question was intended to be answered based on your personal economics?

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

I guess it wasn't obvious - should have included the :)

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 10:44 am

pogo is a registered user.

Perhaps you should have put the happy face next to your other answers, too.

Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hi I am Justins mother I appreciate some of the kinder comments about my son. Until you know the true story it is kinda hard to judge him I think. My sons strike for a violent crime was an officer t-boning a car he was in and the officer claimed to hurt his back. I happen to know an officer who is a friend of this officer and he told me he was milking his injury to collect disability. My son would NEVER intentionally hurt anyone. Justin plead guilty to all of the crimes he commited but he wanted a trial because he wanted people to know that he was not guilty of these home invasions. I agreed with his decision to go to trial since no one saw him there were no finger prints no surverlance cameras etc... to prove that he was in these residences. I believe he should be punished for his crimes but not being eligeable for parole for 27 years is outrageous. He is not a violent person he is the only person in the world that I would trust my life with. He is a person that would help anyone in need. He did time for the officer that got hurt. He served two years fighting fires for cal fire. The person that should be put away is actually his father for abandoning him when he was ten and his only interaction that he had with his dad was getting high with him at the age of 15 and his loser father showing him how to steal. My son is not a hardened criminal he is just a boy who needs mental health counseling to understand why he does what he does. I apoligize for his stupid actions but it was controlled by meth my son.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Cynthia -
Thanks for providing details about Justin that only a mother would know. My sincere sympathies to you for all the hurt your son has put you through over the past few years. It sounds from your description that he already had a couple strikes against him before he committed any crimes - an absent Dad with his own problems with the law and a serious drug problem. Because of 3-Strikes sentencing, he's not the only one who will be suffering for the next 33 years.
From your description of him it does sound like Justin might be the perfect candidate for the "beefed up drug treatment programs, mental health centers, probation services and community supervision" that Texas is now providing certain prisoners as an alternative to extended prison sentences. Maybe California will come around to a similar enlightened approach and Justin may yet get a chance at redeeming himself. Certainly the state is being forced to recognize, in the face of $10 Billion+ costs and the Federal mandates, that its 3-Strikes initiative has been an abject failure and that it has cost far more in money and human suffering than the system it was intended to replace. However, to accomplish this it's going to require getting certain people to get off their high horses and begin to recognize the humanity of the people on both sides of the prison bars.
Let's hope that change happens sooner rather than later.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 3:10 pm

pogo is a registered user.

No evidence that he was in the homes he robbed while people were there? Cynthia is factually wrong. His vehicle was caught on several video cameras at the homes he was robbing. They actually caught him by identifying his car on the videos.

It's actually sad that Steve is so willing to accept these biased, unsupported statements and show such sympathy for someone who has been a career criminal and convicted three times, the last by a jury who reviewed all of the evidence and found him guilty of 20 felonies, some violent.

The police claimed he rammed their car. Of course, you should feel free to believe the meth addict's version.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm

pogo is a registered user.

And all of the stolen property form those homes that was found at his home. No, no evidence at all. I guess it was delivered to him by Santa Claus. It's just coincidence that all of it came from homes that were robbed.

Here's the Sheriff's press release: Web Link

Posted by Agnes Brydges
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 29, 2014 at 8:29 am

[Post removed. Let's not turn this thread into speculation about the family's responsibility in this situation.]

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