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Man gets prison time for cigarette heist

A Medford man has been sentenced to a year and a half in prison for stealing more than $1,000 worth of cigarettes from WinCo Foods.

Jason Edward Herbert, 40, of the 2500 block of Stewart Avenue, pleaded guilty to first-degree theft Thursday for the cigarette heist from the store on East Barnett Road.

In exchange for Herbert's plea, separate cases involving methamphetamine possession, second-degree theft, third-degree theft and identify theft were dismissed.

Herbert got the relatively stiff 18-month sentence on the first-degree theft charge involving the cigarettes because he is a repeat property offender, according to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office.

Herbert and a woman were accused of taking turns operating as look-outs while the other grabbed cartons of cigarettes and walked out of WinCo Foods, said court-appointed defense attorney Laurance Parker.

He said neither was an employee of the store.

The shoplifting scheme was carried out during summer 2012, according to an indictment.

Parker said he didn't know what Herbert and his alleged accomplice did with the cigarettes or whether they sold them.

The cost of a carton of cigarettes varies widely by store and brand, but generally runs about $50 and up for a carton of 10 packs, with 10 cigarettes in each pack. A person would need to steal about 20 cartons to total $1,000.

Speaking via video monitor from the Jackson County Jail, Herbert said all his problems have been caused by drugs.

Herbert asked to be sent to drug treatment rather than prison in order to escape a life of crime and drugs. He said he had been warehoused in the past in jail and prison, and that hadn't done any good.

"I need a chance to prove to myself I can do it," Herbert said.

However, Jackson County Circuit Judge Timothy Barnack sentenced him to the year and a half in prison that had been negotiated during plea agreement discussions.

Herbert has been held in jail since June on $790,000 bail.

He had been a fugitive before then, accounting for the high bail figure, Parker said.

Herbert previously failed to appear in court multiple times to face charges against him.

Parker said Herbert had been trying to turn his life around, but charges from the 2012 cigarette theft and other cases also dating from 2012 had "come back to bite him."

The codefendant in the cigarette theft case, Shannon Dawn Atwood, also failed to appear in court numerous times in 2012, according to court records.

Court records show no resolution yet in her case, in which she is charged with first-degree theft, conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and possession of methamphetamine.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.