Man sentenced to six years as habitual offender

Friday, May 6, 2016

The old theory that "the whole is greater than that sum of its parts" doesn't always hold true in the criminal justice system.

The latest example of that came in Putnam Superior Court this week when a 31-year-old Reelsville man with a long history of felonies accepted a plea agreement that means he will do a six-year sentence in the Department of Correction with four years executed and two years on suspension.

With 15 felony convictions on the defendant's record, according to a presentence investigation in the case, Deputy Prosecutor Jim Hanner suggested Bruce got off cheap when the whole didn't come close to equaling the sum of its parts.

Those convictions, however, do add up to an habitual criminal designation for Daniel A. Bruce, who pled guilty to two Level 6 felony counts -- auto theft and possession of methamphetamine. A Level 6 felony carries a sentencing range of six months to 2.5 years in prison.

In exchange for Bruce pleading guilty to the two felonies and accepting the habitual criminal enhancement, the prosecution has dismissed a second auto theft count and four theft charges. All five of those are Level 6 felonies.

Not only did Bruce admit his guilt to those two charges, which stem from a March 19, 2015 incident, but he also admitted to being an habitual offender.

Thus, when Judge Denny Bridges sentenced Bruce to one year in the Indiana Department of Correction on the auto theft charge, it was enhanced by an additional three years because of the habitual offender tag.

Bruce was also sentenced to two years in the DOC, all suspended, for the possession of meth count.

Despite the sentence in Putnam County, Bruce also has an unresolved felony case in Vigo County that is "still in warrant status," according to legal counsel Dennis Thomas, who is Bruce's fourth public defender.

Thomas asked the court to accept the plea agreement in its entirety, adding that Bruce is not currently considered a candidate for work-release.

"I'll reserve that argument for another time," Thomas told the court.

Bruce will receive credit for 406 days of jail time in the case that began to unfold in February 2015 when Putnam County Sheriff's Department deputies were investigating several stolen vehicle burglaries and thefts, including one incident in which Bruce led police on a northern Putnam County chase in a 2003 Ford F-150 reportedly stolen from Morgan County and hauling a stolen motorcycle.

Bruce reportedly ditched the truck in a cornfield near Roachdale and fled on foot.

Roachdale Marshal Mike Mahoy and his K9 partner Toby tracked the suspect to a creek where they found him semi-conscious and unresponsive. The suspect was partially submerged in the water after apparently falling down a 10- to 15-foot embankment.

The suspect was positively identified as Bruce before being airlifted to St. Vincent Hospital.

Two days later, he was arrested and lodged in the Putnam County Jail after his release from the hospital.

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