Man gets 4 years’ probation for treating store ‘like a buffet line’

WAILUKU — A disabled Haiku man has received four years of probation for walking past cash registers with a shopping cart full of stolen tools and other items from Sears in February.

“Sears is not a buffet line. You can’t go up and down the aisles with your cart stealing all kinds of items,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Robert Corniel, 59, at his Dec. 14 sentencing hearing. “The funny thing is you told the officers you didn’t know what you were going to do with the items. I don’t know why you’re stealing, if you don’t know why you’re stealing the items. You probably shouldn’t have stolen them in the first place.”

Loo sentenced Corniel to six months in jail and 200 hours of community service after he pleaded no contest to second-degree theft.

The incident occurred at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 when a Sears loss prevention associate watched Corniel take multiple items from racks within the hardware department and place them in a shopping cart, Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Temas said. He said that Corniel proceeded to the men’s clothing area and placed more items in the cart, then walked toward the exit.

Corniel passed open and manned registers without making an effort to pay, and exited the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center store, Temas said. He said Corniel was stopped about 10 to 15 feet outside of Sears.

A total of 44 items were stolen and included tools, locks, flashlights, knives, batteries, towels, speakers and underwear, Temas said. The items had a combined value of more than $1,200.

“That’s quite a bit of after-Christmas shopping,” Temas said.

Deputy Public Defender Jared Brickey said that his client acknowledged his wrongdoing right after he was caught.

“He didn’t try to ‘BS’ the loss prevention officer, and luckily all the items were returned,” Brickey said.

He asked the court to follow the plea agreement, which called for no additional jail time, and noted that there was no “actual risk or substantial harm” caused by the crime. He added that Corniel wants to be able to support his son, who has a criminal record and is believed to be in rehab.

Corniel apologized to the court and to the store for his actions. He also admitted to violating the conditions of his supervised release by failing to report to the Maui Intake Service Center and testing positive for methamphetamine on March 31 and July 14.

“I know they were wrong and I will not do them again . . . I accept whatever the court gives me,” he said.

Corniel has prior theft convictions, including two in 2013, and numerous contempt-of-court offenses, Temas said. Corniel missed his original sentencing date in his most recent case and served 55 days in jail.

Temas asked the court to place an emphasis on mental health and substance abuse treatment as part of probation. He also asked that Corniel be ordered to stay away from Sears and to write a letter of apology.

“He needs to be a better role model,” Temas said. “He can think of his family and needs to show them he can be a better role model.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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