October 31, 2012

Dalton man convicted of burglary, escape

From Staff Reports

— A Dalton man who pleaded guilty during trial to burglary and escape was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison followed by five years on probation on Wednesday. 

Pearl Smith Jr., 39, of 717 Brooker Road, was arrested on the burglary charge on Aug. 23, 2011 after he entered a home in the Antioch community and stole copper wire and a heater.  The heater was recovered from the person to whom Smith had sold it.

On Jan. 16, 2012, while in the Whitfield County Jail awaiting trial on the burglary charge, Smith escaped from the jail after being granted trustee status. Smith was cleaning windows near the front of the jail and fled when the jailer responsible for him was temporarily distracted. Smith was arrested a short time later when he was found wearing a trash bag after he had discarded his inmate uniform.

At the time of his August arrest, Smith was on parole for a previous burglary. His trial on the new cases was delayed in part because of the need to indict the escape charge and because he hired a new attorney after his second arrest. The trial was further delayed when his parole was revoked and he was shipped into the state prison system and had to be returned to Whitfield County. A jury was finally selected on Monday and the trial commenced on Tuesday morning.

Following the testimony of eight witnesses on Tuesday and after conferring with his attorney, Scott Forrister, and with family, the defendant notified the court on Wednesday morning that he wished to enter a guilty plea to both charges.

Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris presided over the case and accepted the guilty plea.  The case was being presented to the jury by Assistant District Attorney Ben Kenemer. As part of the probated portion of the sentence, Smith was required to pay more than $2,000 in restitution to the victim of the burglary, to perform community service work and to seek alcohol and drug abuse counseling.