There is an interesting charge out of Florida where Donovan Russell Jester stole and crashed a roughly $1 million yacht. He apparently lived on the boat for three months. He was charged with the grand theft vessel. What is interesting is that this crime comes with a potential 30 year sentence. Jester stole the 46-foot Jeanneau Leader ( a model advertised as a boat that will “seduce you with her contemporary spirit”) in St. Petersburg, Florida. Three months later, he crashed it into channel-marker pilings. It floated into some oyster beds. It does not sound like, even after three months, Jester left much incriminating evidence: he was identified off a thumb print on the cabin door.
I was surprised by the length of such a potential sentence. However, the crime in the first degree for grand theft is found at § 812.014
(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.
(2)(a) 1. If the property stolen is valued at $100,000 or more or is a semitrailer that was deployed by a law enforcement officer; or
2. If the property stolen is cargo valued at $50,000 or more that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper’s loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock; or
3. If the offender commits any grand theft and:
a. In the course of committing the offense the offender uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, other than merely as a getaway vehicle, to assist in committing the offense and thereby damages the real property of another; or
b. In the course of committing the offense the offender causes damage to the real or personal property of another in excess of $1,000,
Obviously, theft was the boat meant that it was used as a getaway vehicle. However, by taking the boat it, Jester would be committing other crimes, including crashing the boat and abandoning it. He also caused “damage to real or personal property in excess of $1000.” What is interesting to me is that many forms of grand theft, like grand theft auto, result in damage of more than $1000. Just denting a stolen car can rack up such a bill and trigger this higher sentencing range.
Of course, taking property and living on it for months would seem a particularly egregious form of grand theft.
It is the peril that Hamlet warned of any jester who departs from “what is set down”: “That’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool.”