The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Sweet tooth bandit sentenced for summer crime spree


James Russell of Sidney was sentenced last week on one count of burglary and one count of theft after his involvement in two break ins at the concession stand in Legion Park and thefts from numerous unlocked vehicles around town this summer.

He received additional time in jail, probation and community service.

Russell was arrested June 17 for the first burglary of the concession stand at Legion Park and theft of coins and cash from numerous vehicles. Russell stole money and various items from cars around Sidney from June 3 to June 13 of this year, according to a Cheyenne County Sheriff's Office affidavit.

Russell and his juvenile accomplices stole thousands of dollars in cash from the vehicles, which they divided among themselves, as well as some additional items—including a gun.

The first Legion Park concession stand burglary occurred June 4. Candy, popsicles and pop were stolen from the concession stand. The second burglary took place on July 15, when Russell was out on bond for the previous crimes. Around $100 in candy and pop were stolen in the second burglary, according to police records.

His apparent penchant for treats earned him the nickname of “Sweet Tooth Bandit.”

Deputy Cheyenne County Attorney Jonathan Stellar represented the state during sentencing while local attorney Don Miller represented Russell.

District Judge Derek Weimer asked if Russell needed to pay some sort of restitution to the victims of his crimes. He did not, Stellar said.

"The state's already recovered the majority of everything seized," Stellar said.

The defendant had already served close to 90 days as of last week. The state recommended intensive supervised probation, instead of a lengthy jail sentence. This would give Russell the opportunity to attempt to turn his life around and to benefit from the structure reporting to probation would give him, Stellar said. This might also help Russell with any mental issues or substance abuse problems he may have, the attorney added.

The fact that Russell broke into the concession stand twice was cause for concern, from the state's perspective, especially because second time Russell broke into the stand, he was out on bond for the first break in. This could indicate that he might not know or understand that what he was doing was wrong, Stellar explained.

Miller said he had spoken with Russell about the strict rules he'd be under while on probation and whether or not he could follow them. Miller was hopeful that his client could comply. Miller urged leniency because of Russell's past.

"He had a very difficult upbringing," Miller said.

Russell has many issues, he added. "He's trying to work through some of those."

There are a number of circumstance in this case which are different than many cases, Miller added. Miller expressed hope that probation would help Russell with any problems he may have.

"I don't think this is an appropriate case for time served," Weimer said.

Weimer considered many factors when deciding Russell's sentence including age, history and his likelihood to re-offend. Russell was sentenced to an additional 86 days in jail and was placed on intensive supervised probation for 60 months.

"I expect you will spend that time working toward completion of your GED," Weimer said.

Weimer also ordered 200 hours of community service. He cautioned that since Russell is unemployed he should spend time doing something productive instead of hanging out with younger kids and getting into trouble.

"These were a series of events that caused a lot of people needless heartache," Weimer said.

Russell took advantage of the trusting people of Sidney who left their car doors unlocked, Weimer said, so he owes this service to the community.

Russell was also ordered to wear a monitoring anklet for 90 days as well as to write apology letters to each victim of his crimes.


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