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Career criminal gets 51 months

Treatment option denied for man with long record

A career burglar described by a judge as a “runaway train of criminal conduct” was denied drug treatment Thursday and sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Christopher J. Cannata, 37, was given 51 months in prison for a string of burglaries that began in August and continued after he was released from jail because prosecutors hadn’t filed charges.

A prosecutor, defense lawyer and Superior Court judge each described Cannata’s criminal record, which includes 21 felonies dating back to his childhood, as “extraordinary.”

“How do we stop a locomotive that’s running away?” said Judge Michael Price before denying public defender Derek Reid’s request for a lesser sentence that would include intensive drug treatment.

Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith said Cannata’s criminal record speaks for itself.

“All that society can hope for in this particular case is he’s just off the street and not burglarizing and stealing from people for some period,” Smith said.

Reid and Cannata’s mother, Susan Cannata, urged Price to allow Cannata to enter the state’s drug offender sentencing alternative program, which would give him 30 months of drug treatment in prison and 30 months of drug treatment out of prison.

“Do we just want him off the street for (51) months? Or is there a possibility we can end the circle?” Reid said. “The only way he’s ever going to stop is if we give him that chance.”

Susan Cannata said her son “is a good man, but he’s got a monkey on his back.”

But Price rejected the treatment option, saying limited funding means he must be careful who he allows in the program. He called Cannata’s impact on the community “really significant” and cited letters he received from victims.

“You really have had a tremendously hard and sad effect on these people’s lives,” Price said.

Still, Price chose the low-end of the standard sentence for Cannata, instead of the 68 months he was allowed to impose.

A judge also denied Cannata’s request for the treatment program at his sentencing for burglary in 2005.

Cannata was arrested on suspicion of breaking into a Rockford storage unit in August, eight months after he left prison. Prosecutors failed to file formal charges within the 72-hour deadline, and authorities had to let Cannata go.

He was arrested again in October after a break-in at Kelly’s Custom Car Audio, 5518 N. Market St., that the owner said wiped out the business. Cannata was charged with those burglaries and others after that arrest.

He apologized for the crimes on Thursday.

“I understand where the prosecutor’s coming from. This is like my third or fourth time going (to prison),” he said. But, he added, “It all revolves around the chemicals … they control me.”