December 23, 2009 in City

Prison sentence for $32 theft reflects history

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It seems like such a small haul, but for David Warriner, it was another bad choice in a lifetime of mistakes.

The career criminal’s crime?

Stealing sardines, shaving cream and a razor – valued at $32 – from a downtown Spokane drugstore.

Warriner’s lengthy criminal history, which includes theft convictions in Hawaii and four other states, weighed against him during his sentencing this month in Spokane County Superior Court.

“Your past history is the reason why you’re going to prison,” said Judge Maryann Moreno. “We generally don’t send people to prison for this type of crime unless they come in with a history like yours.”

Sentenced to life in prison in his 20s and arrested in a jailbreak that left one inmate dead and a Seattle policeman badly wounded in the 1970s, Warriner was ordered resentenced by the state Supreme Court in 1983 and left prison a free man 10 years later.

“I had a second chance,” Warriner, 56, said in an interview at the Spokane County Jail before he was transferred to a state prison this month. “But I took it lightly. I got caught in the loop.”

Warriner was arrested at the Rite Aid at 112 N. Howard St. on Oct. 27 with stolen shaving supplies and four cans of sardines. He’d been banned from all Rite Aid stores after stealing from the same location in June 2008.

The sardine theft was charged as a burglary under Washington law because Warriner wasn’t allowed in the store. Prosecutors agreed to a reduced charge of second-degree theft, which carries about half the prison time.

Warriner was sentenced to 29 months Dec. 11 in a plea deal approved by Moreno.

“I thought 29 months was enough,” said Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens.

Warriner was 26 and recently convicted of negligent homicide when he and seven others broke out of the high-security jail on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse in a gunpoint ambush that saw the men escape in getaway cars.

Warriner had been sentenced to life in prison for being a habitual criminal but isn’t thought to have masterminded the historic jailbreak.

One of the inmates shot and badly wounded a Seattle police officer just after the breakout. Warriner and two other inmates were in another area of the city at the time.

One was shot and killed during a police pursuit, but Warriner got away and was the only escapee not arrested within 45 minutes of the jailbreak, according to previous news reports.

A border patrol agent nabbed him two days later on Oct. 16, 1979, near Blaine, Wash., according to news reports. Warriner lost contact with his co-conspirators in the following years but said he maintains a pact they made to never share secrets of the breakout.

He declined to answer questions about it but said he’s changed in the 30 years since.

He’s spent most of his life living on the streets, stealing food and supplies and “just trying to get by.”

He’s earned criminal convictions in Eugene, Ore., Santa Barbara, Calif., and Hilo, Hawaii.

He came to Spokane when he was paroled here from prison and hopes to find a job and a place to live when he returns.

“I’m grateful,” he said. “There was a time in my life when I was pretty bitter.”

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