June 29, 2007 12:15 PM PDT

Laptop thief may go to prison for life

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Online dating may be mainstream by now, but a recent California court decision contains yet another cautionary tale for anyone inclined to be overly trusting of Internet matchups.

The lesson for daters: If your inaugural encounter with an online paramour begins with a request for money and accolades for your laptop, move on. The lesson for thieves: If you steal your Net paramour's laptop, under California's three-strikes law you could be facing life in prison.

Earlier this week, a state appeals court in Los Angeles upheld a guilty verdict against a man named Ronnie Henning. According to court papers, he burglarized the apartment of a woman he met through an Internet personals site, made off with her laptop and certain accessories, and promptly sold them to a pawn shop for $250--but not before wiping her hard drive and changing the administrator's username to one identical to his online dating alias.

The court didn't take kindly to the reported repeat offender, who had been previously charged with felonies summarized as involving "moral turpitude." Henning now potentially faces 31 years to life in prison, thanks to a so-called Three Strikes law, which requires lengthier punishments to convicts with three or more prior felony convictions under their belts.

The episode that prompted the conviction dates back to February 2005, according to the court documents, when Rachel Daniels agreed to give Henning her mobile phone number and to meet him in person after they connected through an unnamed online dating site.

Henning went on to call Daniels at around 9:30 one night, tell her his truck had broken down, and request that she pick him up. Daniels obliged, and upon meeting her, Henning asked if he could borrow $70 to buy a truck part from a friend. Daniels realized she'd forgotten her wallet, so she drove both of them back to her house to retrieve it. There, she received what was arguably her first omen: Henning "commented favorably" on a laptop perched on the arm of her sofa, the court opinion said.

Daniels proceeded to drive Henning to the friend's house in purported quest of the auto part. But when he emerged with only a paper bag and asked her to drive him to another friend's house to get the "complete" part, she started to feel uneasy and drove him home, according to the court records. Still feeling apprehensive alone that night in her abode, she opted to stay at a friend's place.

Prompted by a call from her landlord the next morning, Daniels returned to her apartment to find that the door frame had been shattered, the door kicked in, and her laptop, modem and phone cord apparently stolen. A few weeks later, police informed her they had found a computer with her serial number at a pawn shop. Her files had been deleted, and the administrator's name had been set to "Baby Come Close"--Henning's username on the online dating sites.

According to court papers, it wasn't an isolated incident. At trial, another woman who had met Henning through the same site (and same username) a year earlier testified that he had stolen her car one night while she was asleep and given it up as "collateral" for gambling losses. (She ultimately recovered her vehicle; there were no charges against Henning in that episode.)

Henning denied wrongdoing in both incidents, according to the court papers. He said that he had instructed a friend to return the car and its keys belonging to the woman in the earlier incident. In the later case, he testified that he and Daniels had been dating for a week and that she had voluntarily given him her older laptop. He said he decided to pawn it after Daniels discovered Henning actually had a live-in girlfriend, blew up at him, and demanded that he return the machine.

The trial court didn't buy those arguments, and neither did the appeals body. There were too many similarities between the cases for anyone not to infer that Henning hadn't committed the laptop burglary, the appeals court wrote.

"Indeed, appellant testified he met them both through the same Web site," the court wrote. "He told both of them he had no children, when he in fact had nine children, and did not tell either of them he had a live-in girlfriend. He lied to each woman to obtain money from her."

Henning had appealed the verdict against him on several grounds: among other things, that the jury didn't have enough African-American members to provide a "representative cross-section of the community," that there wasn't enough evidence against him, and that the Three Strikes law was applied improperly. The appeals court, for its part, rejected all of those claims.

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9 comments

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Laptop thief may go to prison for life
Your slanted statement is misleading. The dummy is a felon and it would not make a difference if he took thwe lap top or not. In Calilorina section 459PC. just the entering with intent to do pettit theft or any other crime is a felony.
The gal Daniels is not wrapped to tight either or she is so bad off she needs any one with pants or male organs. He is where he belongs out of society and she should bwe in a mental ward for stupidity.What a dunce she is...
Posted by JamesFeinstein (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He's a career criminal, put him away for life.
He's a career criminal, put him away for life.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Deceptive title: he's not going to prison for life for just one crime.
Deceptive title: he's not going to prison for life for just one crime. He's going to be put away because he's committed multiple felonies.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Twinkie Thief May Go To Prison For Life
We've had major repeat offenders who have finally been locked up for life for stealing twinkies at 711s. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. That is the whole point of three strikes.

Unfortunately, CA has dirt-bag scum lawyers who still try to make a mockery of the justice system, like this grape slippage case.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.orovillemr.com/news/ci_6256948" target="_newWindow">http://www.orovillemr.com/news/ci_6256948</a>
"Jury nixes illegal alien's suit over fall in grocery store. A Butte County jury has found a Gridley supermarket not liable to pay civil damages to an illegal alien who slipped and fell on a grape inside the store.

The plaintiff, who suffered a fractured kneecap in the incident, had sought over $400,000 through her lawyer for past and future medical expenses, and pain and suffering."
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nope
The point of 3 strikes laws is to keep the prison industrial complex humming along and to make people do the time multiple times for a crime they already paid for.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Jail
So without even knowing this blokes full story. You know he stole a laptop worth $400.
Did he threaten anyones life.
Did he kill anyone.
Was he going round drunk beating people up.
Was he running a criminal racket ruiening peoples health with the worlds most addictive substances with the label walmart.
Did he call someone mad and use organised criminals to ruine someones mind like a psychiatrist.
Did he just cut down a forest on the bases of percentage rules.
Did he plunder much at all.

Probably not but hey the judge has a high enough intelligence to count to three.
Infact all he wanted to do was to fund some more organised criminals selling him poisons and forced some women to have to aprechiate that theres more to life than a laptop.
You shouldent steal though should you and none of the other plunderings described are stealing anything of the sole and survival chances because it's not breaking the law.
I'm calling it a distortion that hinders a development process that could truly allow life a chance and force people to have to reinvent themselves to become more sustainable.
Thats it keep blaming the little guy until the day thats you.
You dont break the law i hear you say.
Well i guess new laws will be written then just incase you believed in somthing called justice, ignoratly supporting distortion.
A triangle is a tringle is a triangle.
I'll bet you think your bible is about a caring god.
No one even taught you how to read properly.
Heres a clue theres no mystery in it unless you don't know what god is about.
Heres another clue no where in the bible does it say criminals weren't made or satan created war.
Not that it connects the !white! horse with babolonian promiscurity against the wish for a servent culture of god. However the connection is there.
So what you accept you allow to grow.
Anything that grows dominates.
Anything that dominates can get you no matter how honest you are.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Jail
So without even knowing this blokes full story. You know he stole a laptop worth $400.
Did he threaten anyones life.
Did he kill anyone.
Was he going round drunk beating people up.
Was he running a criminal racket ruiening peoples health with the worlds most addictive substances with the label walmart.
Did he call someone mad and use organised criminals to ruine someones mind like a psychiatrist.
Did he just cut down a forest on the bases of percentage rules.
Did he plunder much at all.

Probably not but hey the judge has a high enough intelligence to count to three.
Infact all he wanted to do was to fund some more organised criminals selling him poisons and forced some women to have to aprechiate that theres more to life than a laptop.
You shouldent steal though should you and none of the other plunderings described are stealing anything of the sole and survival chances because it's not breaking the law.
I'm calling it a distortion that hinders a development process that could truly allow life a chance and force people to have to reinvent themselves to become more sustainable.
Thats it keep blaming the little guy until the day thats you.
You dont break the law i hear you say.
Well i guess new laws will be written then just incase you believed in somthing called justice, ignoratly supporting distortion.
A triangle is a tringle is a triangle.
Heres a clue theres no mystery in it unless you don't know what god is about.
Heres another clue no where in the bible does it say criminals weren't made or satan created war.
Not that it connects the !white! horse with babolonian promiscurity against the wish for a servent culture of god. However the connection is there.
So what you accept you allow to grow.
Anything that grows dominates.
Anything that dominates can get you no matter how honest you are.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
prison is counterproductive
The "3 Strikes" law is stupid. The Bible has it right. Anyone who steals should have to pay 2x the worth of what he stole. (And to the person he stole from, not to gov't.) What if he can't pay? In Bible times, he would have become an indentured servant (i.e., temporary slave) until the debt was paid. In our modern society, we could do the latter without re-introducing slavery by forcing prisoners to work off their debt. Work hard; get out sooner. Refuse to work; never get out. Their choice. And make them pay taxes and room and board, like the rest of us.

Of course, this option would only be available for property injury crimes. "Debts" from personal injury crimes generally can't be paid back. A criminal can't make restitution for kidnapping, maiming, rape, murder, etc. In those cases, he must "pay" by loss of his freedom or his life.
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice Yellow Journalism...
That title is a bit of a stretch.

I don?t live in Cali and I know about their 3 strikes statute. If you live in Cali and become a 3 strike offender that?s your bad, you should have known better.

While I personally feel that incarceration is expensive and not terribly productive that is an issue Cali residents need to address with Cali legislators.

I remember reading about one of the first offenders sentenced under the Cali 3 strike statute. It was a guy who stole a slice of pizza from a kid in a mall. Supposedly there was a backlash that the punishment didn?t fit the crime. Well it?s the principle of the matter. If you steal a slice from a kid then you have real problems and deserve to become property of the state.

At least be smart about it and space your convictions out over a lifetime. Geez?
Posted by R.Jefferson (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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