Repeat offender avoids major prison time

A northeast Missouri man who has pleaded guilty to five crimes in the past four years has somehow managed to avoid a long prison sentence in the Department of Corrections, and we wanted to know why.

In 2005 and 2006, Damien Patterson, 24, of Kirksville pleaded guilty to three separate felony charges of theft of anhydrous ammonia.

The first case was in Macon County. Patterson was given a 10-year suspended in October 2005. He served 120 days in prison where he successfully completed a drug treatment program. He was released after that.

In January 2006, Patterson was given a seven-year suspended sentence in Knox County Circuit Court. He was released on probation after serving 120 days shock incarceration.

Later in January 2006, the defendant was given a 10-year suspended sentence, also in Knox County, and he was placed on probation.

In July 2006, Patterson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of passing a bad check. He was given two years probation.

In February 2007, the defendant pleaded guilty in Adair County to a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property. He had to spend 120 days in the Adair County Jail.

We wondered how Patterson had avoided major prison time when he committed more crimes while on probation for previous crimes.

Reporter: "So the fact that Damien Patterson has pleaded guilty to five different crimes and he hasn't spent a significant amount of time in the state penitentiary, is that unusual?"

"I would have to leave that up to the courts to answer since ultimately they decide what punishment suits those crimes and if an admission of guilt would factor into that," said Jacqueline Lapine, chief public information officer for the Department of Corrections.

Lapine said the bottom line is the judge in each case has the final say about what happens to a defendant if he or she violates probation.

To make matters worse, Patterson is currently charged in connection with two more crimes.

He's charged with felony receiving stolen property, and he's accused of making and selling fake fair tickets for the 2009 NEMO Fair in Kirksville.