A former Best Buy employee who stole more than $14,000 in items from the store was sentenced Monday to four years of probation with a 30-day jail sentence.
Brandon Hunt, 30, was able to pay restitution to the store with funds raised by his family. The prosecutor cited the restitution when recommending Hunt not be sentenced to prison.
The manager at Best Buy called police in May reporting inventory reviews showed several items were missing. Hunt admitted to stealing the items that had been discovered missing, including iPhones, iPads, laptops and smartwatches.
Hunt told District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. he stole the items because his family was struggling financially. He began with phone chargers before escalating to more expensive items, including two laptops that cost $1,999.99 each.
Hunt was charged with two counts of grand theft, one of which was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Watkins called the support Hunt received from his family "remarkable." Watkins frequently asks defendants if their family members are present at sentencing or otherwise supporting them.
"I'm more than touched as if they were here based on the contributions," Watkins said.
The judge added, however, that he partially wishes Hunt's parents had not paid the restitution, telling him it should have been his obligation.
Hunt told the judge his arrest had interrupted his education, and that he had been 10 credits away from finishing a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He had hoped to teach or work as a dentist, but was worried his criminal record would hold him back.
Watkins encouraged Hunt, citing a previous case involving a man convicted of armed robbery who was able to go to college and get a graduate degree. The judge said he would withhold judgment, meaning that if Hunt is successful on probation, the felony charge can be dismissed.
Watkins added that another conviction could cause more serious harm to Hunt's aspirations, and that he would need to see Hunt make an effort to repay his family.
"I want you to go home and express your deep gratitude, not just from your perspective, but from the court's," Watkins said.