Looter During Oroville Dam Crisis Sentenced to Life in Prison

Closed for evacuation (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

A criminal caught looting during the February Oroville Dam crisis evacuation of 185,000 residents was sentenced to potential life in prison Wednesday.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Tamara Mosbarger  sentenced habitual felon John Beebe Jr., age 39, to 25 years to life in state prison, plus an additional five-year term, after he pleaded no contest to a felony first-degree residential burglary.

With a 25-year criminal rap sheet that began at age 14, and which has included convictions for 15 felonies, seven misdemeanors, and one infraction, that Beebe had already had several sentencing enhancements related to prior felony convictions under California’s three-strikes law, Judge Mosbarger noted.

the Butte County District Attorney’s Office alleged that Beebe had been arrested after looting a home between Feb. 12-14 during the mandatory evacuation issued by the Butte County Sheriff. He was later arrested by Gridley-Biggs police, who found more than $2,000 in personal effects had been taken from a local home that included boots, jewelry and electronics.

When confronted with the evidence by police, Beebe confessed to the crime and was arrested. He pleaded “no contest” to a single count of felony first-degree residential burglary in October.

Defense attorney Leo Battle claimed that Beebe is remorseful and that his crimes have been “fueled by his raging addiction to methamphetamine.” Battle added that Beebe is a victim because he could not control his drug addiction, even after seeking treatment.

Beebe presented a letter to the court before sentencing to seek leniency based on his addiction to drugs since he was 12 years old. He wrote, “I allowed my addiction to dictate my life, irrespective of the consequences.” But he believes that he has reached the “aha moment” in his life. Beebe claimed that for the first time, he believes he could be a “good man and a good father.”

But Deputy Butte County District Attorney Jessica Miller said that her office has set a policy to seek the most severe punishments under the law for all looters and vandals that took advantage of the life-threatening Oroville Dam crisis.

Miller stated that Beebe took advantage of the vulnerability of an entire community to support his drug addiction. She emphasized that there should be no leeway in Beebe’s sentencing: “This is the reason we have the three-strikes law, so that people like the defendant do not continue to victimize our towns, our communities — especially in times when we are vulnerable.”

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