A California man who stole $10,000 worth of fresh fish to trade for $400 in crack cocaine was given a three-year suspended prison sentence Thursday, on the condition that he enter a residential treatment programme to tackle his drug addiction.
San Mateo Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak handed down the sentence to 44-year-old Byron Bates, who pleaded no contest in May to stealing a delivery truck from South San Francisco-based Newport Fish Company where he was employed.
Novak acknowledged that the defendant’s crime was nonviolent, and said she believed that he was genuinely remorseful and that his “theft-related conduct was driven by addiction.”
Bates, who has been accepted into the Delancey Street Foundation’s addiction recovery programme in San Francisco, wiped away tears and thanked the judge for a chance to turn his life around.
“I just feel a lot of guilt right now,” he said.
In October 2011, Bates worked as a driver for the seafood distribution company and had been assigned to make a round of fresh fish deliveries in Sacramento on Oct. 14, according to the district attorney’s office.
By 4 p.m. that day, customers were calling to complain that no deliveries had been made, prosecutors said. After the owner of the company tried unsuccessfully to contact Bates, he called police.
Four days later, the missing delivery truck was found abandoned in Oakland. Most of the fish was gone, and what remained was rotten, according to the district attorney’s office.
Bates was arrested in South San Francisco, and investigators determined that he had traded the fresh fish for $400 worth of crack.
Bates, who has been in San Mateo County Jail since his arrest, will be required to live at Delancey Street Foundation’s residential facility for a minimum of two years.