Heartbreaking Case of the Christmas Tree Thief

“Court Case Friday”

As a young D.A. I was assigned to prosecute a 15-year-old for petty theft.  He stole a Christmas tree from a lot.

It was very late on Christmas Eve. A young man walked into a Christmas tree lot just before closing. He looked at the few scraggly remaining trees.  Suddenly, he grabbed one, and ran out without paying.

Since he was carrying a Christmas tree with him, the police easily caught him. This was a “slam dunk” case for prosecution. 

As I reviewed the case, I learned that the young man could only speak Spanish, and so police brought an interpreter to the scene of the arrest.  The teenager was polite, respectful, and cooperative.  He immediately confessed to the crime. 

He explained that his father had just been killed in a traffic car accident, leaving his mother, and his five younger siblings, destitute.  Since he was the oldest son, he felt a responsibility to care for his younger siblings. 

He cried as he confessed, and said, “I just wanted my little brothers and sisters to have a Christmas.”

I investigated the case. I verified the young man’s account of his father’s death and the family circumstances.  I confirmed that he had a clean record, and he was doing well in school.

I pondered the case.  Justice demanded prosecution.  However, in this case, I felt that mercy outweighed justice.    

I decided to dismiss the case.  Fortunately, the Christmas tree owner, the police officers, and my boss, agreed with my decision. 


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