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Nation IN BRIEF : FLORIDA

Toilet Paper Theft Brings 40-Year Term

September 29, 1996|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Heeding a prosecutor's demand to protect "hard-working people" from repeated thefts, a judge sentenced a career criminal to 40 years in prison for stealing toilet paper--almost two years per roll. Henry Stepney, a 42-year-old homeless man with 51 prior arrests, took 22 rolls of toilet paper, worth less than a dollar a roll, from a waste management yard. Workers and a security guard caught him as he ran away. "I needed the money," Stepney explained during a hearing in Miami. Public defender Robert Coppel asked the judge for leniency, saying Stepney has a drug problem and needs treatment, not prison. But prosecutor Peter Walsh said Stepney on the streets is a crime waiting to happen. "Every day that he is free, this defendant is stealing from hard-working people," Walsh said.

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