BARTOW, Fla. (AP) -- An African American homeless man with a long, mostly misdemeanor criminal record received a 15-year sentence for stealing a box of cereal and a can of evaporated milk.
Mark Anthony Griffin, was sentenced as a "prison release re-offender," which stiffens penalties for defendants convicted within three years of prison release.
Griffin has more than 50 prior convictions -- most on minor, misdemeanor charges like trespassing, disorderly intoxication and petit theft.
He rejected a plea deal that would've given him 3 years in prison and 2 years of probation.
At the Sept. 25 sentencing, Griffin's brother said his record came from a long history of alcohol abuse. Joseph Griffin wanted his brother to get help with his addiction disorder. The state will spend upwards of $450,000 to incarcerate the homeless man.
While out of jail awaiting trial in the cereal case, Griffin picked up four additional charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Circuit Court Judge Donald Jacobsen said he thought the money and time could be better spent on alcohol treatment, but he said he had no choice under the law.