A homeless man who tried to buy toothpaste and food with a fake $20 bill has been sentenced to six years of jail time in a “reduced” sentence, Newsweek is reporting.
In March 2015, Levi Mitchell, 53, tried to use a counterfeit bill — first at a pharmacy to buy toothpaste, then later at a restaurant to buy food. He was initially sentenced to eight years in prison. However, the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division took on his sentence and reduced it to between three and six years. The court considered the man’s age, the fact that he is homeless, and his substance abuse issues when handing down the reduced sentence.
“The immediate object of defendant’s crime was to purchase basic human necessities, including food and toothpaste. In consideration of the fact that he was a 53 year-old, unemployed homeless man, with longstanding medical and substance abuse issues, a reduction of his sentence to 3 to 6 years is appropriate.”
At the time of the crime, Mitchell had gone into an unidentified New York City pharmacy and attempted to purchase a tube of toothpaste with the counterfeit bill. The cashier refused to accept the bill, and Mitchell went to a nearby restaurant to try to purchase food. Again, he was declined.
By that time, the police had been called. He was arrested and found to be in possession of five counterfeit $20 bills.
Not everyone on the Appellate Court was as sympathetic to Mitchell’s plight. Associate Justice Peter Tom, who was the lone dissenter to the panel’s majority ruling, pointed to Mitchell’s lengthy rap sheet going back 30 years in painting him as a career criminal. Specifically, he had at least 30 prior criminal convictions, including 25 misdemeanors and five felonies. Those felonies include attempted rape in the first degree, attempted robbery in the first degree, attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, and grand larceny in the third degree.
“Since this was defendant’s sixth felony conviction, he could have received sentence of 15 to life had he been adjudicated a persistent felony offender. This is not the type of case where we should exercise our discretionary power to reduce a sentence that was proper and fair.”
Tom also noted that the facts of the case don’t suggest that Mitchell was merely trying to purchase basic human necessities with the fake bills. Rather, he says, Mitchell was attempting to defraud the pharmacy and restaurant through a systematic counterfeiting scheme.