Defendant Jeffrey L. Patton bristled at the thought of being convicted of two separate crimes Monday.
"I don't want to admit guilt, but I'm doing it because it's in my best interest," he said.
Patton said he's "supposed to be some kind of tough guy," but he feared the day he would be sentenced or facing a jury. His Huron County Common Pleas Court trial was scheduled to start today.
"I've been scared to death of this day right here," Patton said Monday.
After the judge and his attorney talked to the 43-year-old Willard man at length, he pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of burglary and tampering with evidence. Judge Jim Conway followed a joint recommendation and sentenced Patton to four years in prison. He will be on three years of parole.
The March 11, 2013 burglary happened at a woman's Holiday Lakes residence outside of Willard when the woman was sleeping. The tampering conviction is for a Nov. 6 traffic stop when Patton was the backseat passenger in his sister's vehicle.
Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff said Patton and his co-defendant, Robert L. Hamman, 45, of Willard, trespassed on the burglary victim's property and she woke up to find the men "next to her bed" rifling through a drawer containing jewelry.
"She yelled at them and they fled," Woodruff added.
Patton initially denied being involved in either crime.
"I never burglarized a home in my life," he said.
The defendant, in a long, meandering off-the-cuff statement to the court, said Hamman wasn't the best person to hang out with after he had been released from prison. However, Patton said he got sentimental about hanging out with a childhood friend -- "and I use that term loosely" -- who had been eager to see him while he was behind bars.
"I can't get the stink of prison off me," said Patton, who added he can't find a decent job, isn't allowed to go to various places and can't date a nice woman once he's out of prison.
Huron County Public Defender David Longo, after speaking to Patton, during a lengthy recess Monday, said he doesn't believe his client was the primary offender.
"He maintains this (burglary) wasn't his idea. He wasn't the main offender," the public defender said. "It was a scared off-and-ran situation."
After the burglary, Patton and Hamman fled to Macomb County, Mich., which is north of Detroit. Authorities had a hotel surrounded -- with two local detectives and 17 Macomb County sheriff's deputies -- but the pair fled through an emergency exit before the perimeter was secure. Two Huron County sheriff's detectives arrested the defendants March 14, 2013 with the help of Macomb County officers.
In September, Patton's accomplice was sentenced to five years in prison for the Willard-area burglary.
Patton seemed offended at the prosecutor's assertion he hid a syringe between the cushions in the back seat of his sister's vehicle. Woodruff had said a DNA test determined the defendant's DNA was on the drug paraphernalia.
"I don't tamper with evidence," said Patton, calling it a "strong-arm tactic" to get him off the street.
The defendant posted a $60,000 bond Aug. 26 and was released from the Huron County Jail. On Nov. 12, Conway revoked Patton's bail.
Patton said he knows he "dragged out" both cases, but admitted he did so because his attorneys told him he had a chance to win. The public defender was assigned to represent Patton after he wouldn't cooperate with defense attorney Tom Nicholson.