Steamboat Springs Their crime? Taking five cucumbers, four or five apricots, two bundles of asparagus spears and a handful of cherries from a garbage can at Sweet Pea Produce.
Their sentence? Six months in the Routt County Jail.
Giles Charle, 24, of Somer-sworth, N.H., and David Siller, 27, of Wayne, Pa., were on their way to the Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering in North Routt County when they were arrested June 26. On Wednesday, they were sentenced to spend six months in jail and pay $15 in restitution to Sweet Pea Produce.
Charle and Siller were charged with felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft. As part of a plea agreement reached with Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James, the men agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor trespass in exchange for having the felony they were facing dismissed.
St. James said the sentence was the men's decision.
"They had a choice between accepting a deferred felony with 90 days in jail or a misdemeanor conviction with six months in jail," he said. "They agreed to spend the six months in jail. It came down to whether they wanted a felony conviction with less jail time or a misdemeanor with more jail."
Contacted Friday, the owner of Sweet Pea Produce declined to comment on the case.
Siller and Charle, speaking from the Routt County Jail, said they didn't have much choice. They said they couldn't risk having felonies on their records and that St. James wouldn't offer anything better on the misdemeanor charge.
The men said they think six months in jail was an inappropriately harsh sentence given their crime.
"We weren't trying to be inconspicuous. We didn't have any intention of committing a crime or doing anything wrong," Charle said. "We had just come in town and we were prepared to buy groceries from a store but everything was closed."
Charle said he admits stepping over a rope onto Sweet Pea property and taking the food from the trash wasn't the best idea, but that he doesn't think spending six months in jail is justifiable.
"I feel like we've been treated very unfairly and unjustly," he said. "Everyone we've talked to thinks we've gone through far more than we deserve."
St. James said the men were facing the felony second-degree burglary charge because they trespassed onto property without permission and took something that did not belong to them, regardless of how they got on the property or the value of what they took.
"It's called unlawful entry," he said.
Charle's family and attorneys believe the District Attorney's Office is making an example of the men.
St. James refused to respond to such claims.
Don Wirtshafter, an attorney in Ohio who represented many of the Rainbow Family members who were charged with crimes during the gathering in Routt County, said he thinks Charle and Siller were forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.
"A suspended sentence would have worked for these boys, but when a prosecutor is really going after you, the best thing you can do is plea," he said. "At best, this case is bizarre. It can only be explained in a heated time when a prosecutor feels he must do something."
Charle's mother, Shaune McCarthy Charle, said what has happened to her son is a joke.
"It's really amazing and unbelievable how taking garbage out of a Dumpster became a felony," she said. "They spent three days in jail in the beginning and weren't expecting it to go any further. (St. James) is completely incorrigible."
Isabel Charle, Charle's sister, called the case "absurd."
"It's just so unfair," she said. "It's appalling how they were treated. It's a sickening reflection of the state of the justice system in this country," she said.
The men began serving their sentences Wednesday. They said they came to Routt County to celebrate peace and love and can't believe they're now spending their days doing yoga in a jail cell.
Siller said, "No one in their right mind would lock someone up for six months for stealing $15 worth of produce that was in a garbage can."
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