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Man Gets 40 Years For Stealing Toilet Paper

September 29, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ 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 Friday.

``I’m not sentencing Mr. Stepney for this crime alone, but for his past 20 years,″ Circuit Judge Lauren Levy Miller said as she imposed the sentence under the state’s repeat offender law.

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,″ prosecutor Peter Walsh said. ``We want mercy for the people of Florida.″

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