A federal appeals court upheld a former San Francisco man’s three-strikes sentence Wednesday for stealing two $30 watches from Sears counter, citing his long criminal history that included two violent crimes, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Richard Lawrence Stewart, now serving 25 years to life in prison, was 37 when he took the watches from a display counter in San Jose in December 2006, his lawyer said. He admitted the theft to a security guard and said he wanted to give the watches as Christmas presents.
According to court records, Stewart grew up in a broken home in San Francisco, the youngest of nine children, had no more than a third-grade education and was unable to read or write at the time of his last arrest. He became addicted to crack cocaine at age 15, used it daily and sold or stole drugs for his only income. He pleaded no contest to forcible oral copulation at age 16 and spent three years in custody, and was imprisoned six more times before his 2006 arrest. Stewart pleaded guilty to the watch theft, a felony because of his record, and was sentenced under the three-strikes law, which imposes a 25-to-life term for any felon with two or more previous convictions for serious or violent felonies.