Sacto 9-1-1
February 11, 2010
Yolo DA won't seek life term for man who stole $3.99 worth of cheese

By Hudson Sangree

Yolo County prosecutors are dropping their bid for a life sentence for a man who put cheese down his pants at a Woodland market.

A new psychological evaluation convinced prosecutors that Robert Preston Ferguson's most recent convictions for petty theft did not warrant a life sentence under the state's three-strikes law, said Jonathan Raven, Yolo County's assistant chief deputy district attorney.

Raven said the district attorney's office had recently received a psychological report, requested by the public defender's office, that "shed some light on Ferguson."

"The district attorney's office is no longer looking at this as a life case," Raven said.

Jurors convicted Ferguson of two counts of petty theft on Jan. 6.

In one incident in December 2008, Ferguson snatched a woman's wallet from the counter of a 7-11 store in Woodland while the woman's son was vomiting on the floor.

Ten days later he put a package of shredded cheese, worth $3.99, down his trousers and walked out of Woodland's Nugget Market. He was apprehended in the parking lot.

Because of Ferguson's 35-year criminal history -- including six convictions for first-degree burglary -- the Yolo County District Attorney's Office charged the theft counts as felonies and sought a life sentence.

Ferguson, even after serving more than 22 years in prison, had failed to learn to obey the law and needed to be taken off the streets, Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish argued in a motion filed in October in Yolo Superior Court.

Defense lawyer Monica Brushia argued in court papers that Ferguson suffered from mental illness and was a substance abuser. His prior felonies, which counted as strikes, occurred in the 1980s, when Ferguson, now in his 50s, was a young man. They were non-violent offenses, she wrote.

Ferguson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1 before Judge Thomas Warriner.

Raven said prosecutors would seek to resolve the sentencing dispute before then, and that Ferguson would likely face about 11 years in state prison.

Call The Bee's Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.

Previous coverage:

Cheese in pants may draw life term for Yolo man - Feb. 10, 2010

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