While not exactly judge, jury and executioner for a familiar Greencastle defendant, Putnam Superior Court Judge Charles "Denny" Bridges will be forever linked to the 43-year-old's future.
At least Bridges should be. He had his hand in determining David L. Sells Jr.'s future not once but twice Wednesday afternoon.
Mere minutes after Judge Bridges sentenced David L. Sells Jr. to 15 years in prison, Sells interrupted the courtroom silence between criminal hearings with an unexpected request.
"Your honor," he asked, "will you marry me and my fiancée?"
Judge Bridges squinted and leaned closer on the bench, obviously not believing his own ears.
Looking incredulously at Sells, decked in Putnam County Jail orange and seated across the aisle from girlfriend Melissa Games, Bridges asked him to repeat what he had said.
When Sells did, the incongruity of the situation took hold.
"I've got to tell you, sir," Bridges responded, literally shaking his head, "that's a first."
So let's get this straight: First the judge orders Sells to serve 15 years, all to be fully executed in the Indiana Department of Correction on burglary, theft and habitual offender convictions. And then he gets to add the "old ball-and-chain" to that sentence?
Across the courtroom aisle from her boyfriend, Games literally giggled with glee as Sells asked Bridges to officiate and the judge readily agreed to conduct a PCJ wedding.
Pressing Bridges for a spot on his calendar for a wedding date, Sells was told by the judge, "Why don't we let her decide, it's her day."
After court Bridges was still amazed at the turn of events.
"I've never even heard a judge say that has happened to him, let alone it happening to me," Judge Bridges said, adding that he can hardly wait for the next judicial conference to share that story.
"I've married people at the (Putnamville) prison before," Bridges added, "but never at the jail."
Prior to the wedding talk, a sentencing hearing for Sells was the order of the day.
In late October it took a Superior Court jury less than 15 minutes to return a guilty verdict against Sells, who was found guilty of breaking into the Greencastle Space Place and stealing property from one of the storage units along Tennessee Street.
On Wednesday, public defender Sid Tongret suggested that it was a classic case of the punishment needing to fit the crime. He said for stealing a few items from a virtually abandoned storage unit, 20 years (the presumptive sentence in the case) was "a tad bit overkill."
Tongret lobbied for a 10-year sentence for Sells with five years imposed and five more on probation.
However, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Justin Long pointed out that Sells' criminal history is a lengthy one and warranted consideration of being punished to the fullest extent of the law.
"If I'm doing the math right, this is your thirteenth case," Long told Sells.
Judge Bridges took note of that as well in formulating the 15-year sentence.
"I find your lengthy criminal history, including 13 cases dating back to when you were a juvenile, to be an aggravating factor," the judge noted. "With that in mind, I think 20 years is too much, and 10 years not enough."
Bridges sentenced Sells to five years for burglary, three years for theft (concurrent with the burglary sentence) and 10 years for being a habitual offender (to run consecutive with the burglary and theft sentences).
"You're not getting the idea," the judge scolded Sells. "that if you commit a crime, you go to jail, because you just keep doing it."
The early morning Jan. 30 arrest of Sells and his admitted accomplice, Gregory Cochran, 20, Greencastle, "put an end to a rash of burglaries at storage units in and around Greencastle," Bridges noted previously.
Cochran accepted a plea agreement with the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office last spring, pleading guilty to a burglary charge in Putnam Circuit Court. Back in April, he was sentenced to four years and then testified against Sells last month.
Sells was convicted of being a habitual offender after accumulating three unrelated felony convictions previously. On Jan. 6, 1999, he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor, while in June 2005, Sells was found guilty of theft. He was also convicted of theft in a May 2010 case.