"It all started as a night out drinking with friends and it spiraled out of control."
That's how defendant Jimmy D. Watts Jr., 19, of 520 Milan Ave., Lot 174, described the circumstances of Oct. 28. He later pleaded guilty to one count each of theft of a motor vehicle and arson.
"This is a first-time felony. This should have been a joy-ride case until he got really stupid and got drunk," Huron County Public Defender David Longo said.
While Watts is facing his first felony conviction, he set fire to a stolen vehicle while he was on probation through Norwalk Municipal Court. There was $17,000 in damage, but it was covered by the victim's insurance company.
"The charges are serious," Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff said. "Fortunately, no one was hurt."
Woodruff said what most bothers him is the defendant is only 19 years old with a history of committing crimes, both as a juvenile and a young adult.
"He has a significant history in juvenile court," Woodruff said, which include five probation violations.
"Once he turned 18, he continued to re-offend," the prosecutor added.
Judging from Watts' criminal history, Woodruff said it's obvious the defendant isn't amenable to community control sanctions.
After hearing from the defendant and both attorneys, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway told Watts he originally intended to impose a prison term. However, the judge said he doesn't think Watts has addressed his drug and alcohol issues properly.
As part of his three years of intense probation, Watts will spend four to six months in a community-based corrections facility (CBCF), a form of prison which focuses on substance abuse treatment and education. Conway stressed to Watts it's possible he could face a prison term if CBCF officials don't accept him after an interview.
Watts, who has been in the Huron County Jail for 120 days, also was fined $500. He must pay $160 in restitution to the Norwalk Fire Department.
If the defendant violates his probation, he faces 18 months in prison.