Car-hopping spree in Rafter J ends in plea
By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
December 21, 2012
A Jackson man pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of burglary after a night of picking through cars in Rafter J last fall.
Coleman Stanton Ernst, 19, pleaded to a single burglary count and prosecutors agreed to drop four other burglary charges and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary.
Ernst will avoid having a felony conviction on his record if he completes five years of supervised probation and pays restitution to the victims.
The two sides presented the deal at Ernst’s arraignment in 9th District Court.
District Court Commissioner Brad Mead accepted Ernst’s plea and ordered a presentencing investigation. As a commissioner, rather than a judge, Mead’s decisions must be reviewed and approved by Judge Timothy C. Day when he returns.
Along with accepting the plea, Mead allowed Ernst to forgo the weekly urine tests that have been a condition of his October release from jail in favor of daily breath tests at the Teton County Jail.
Ernst and two friends spent the night of their arrest going through the Rafter J subdivision rifling through unlocked cars, he said while entering his plea.
“I thought we were just going to hang out,” he said. “But I decided to go along with them.”
The trio started going around the neighborhood looking for cars they could get into, he said. His two companions wanted to find subwoofers, but they took whatever appealed to them, he said.
“We proceeded to go into a few cars and pulled out some things like flashlights, regular everyday things,” he said. “A case of beer out of one.”
A homeowner caught them when they tried to open the trunk of his car, where it seemed likely they would find subwoofers, Ernst said. The trio ran away from the man and his kids, but eventually were caught by police while trying to make a getaway by car, he said.
Ernst’s companion, Anthony Bentsen Moss, also 19, received the same deal earlier this month.
The third member of the trio, a minor, also was charged.
Teton County Probation and Parole authorities will review the case to determine whether the penalties in the plea deal are appropriate given Ernst’s crime and background.
Day will review the investigation report and determine Ernst’s sentence after that.