Retribution isn’t always a bad concept, especially in the case of a decorated war hero who was willing to give her life for the U.S. before she had even become a citizen, Judge Daniel J. Craig said.
After hearing the evidence, a Richmond County Superior Court jury took less than 15 minutes to convict Joshua Patterson, 33.
The judge said it was also important to consider that five months before breaking into the Gardner Street home of William and Kinga Kiss-Johnson, Patterson broke into an empty grocery store and caused more than $100,000 in damage. Instead of reflecting on such a bad deed and deciding to change his way, Patterson kept stealing, Craig said.
The May 7, 2012, burglary and wounding of Kinga Kiss-Johnson’s dog, Balto, turned their lives upside down, she said. Their lives had been settling into normalcy, with Balto providing Kiss-Johnson the independence she lost when the enemy attacked her vehicle in Afghanistan in late 2007. Her neck and back were broken. She had a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kiss-Johnson said Thursday that the judge was in the best position to decide Patterson’s sentence. Her mother taught her to forgive, but she didn’t want such a crime to happen to someone else, Kiss-Johnson said, with Balto and her husband by her side.
Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter asked for the maximum sentence. Even if Patterson were truthful when he told sheriff investigators that two other men went into the home and he served as a lookout, he was a willing participant in an armed break-in that left an injured soldier’s service dog with two gunshot wounds.
Patterson attributed his behavior to methamphetamine use. In prison – where he is serving a 10-year sentence he received Feb. 15, 2013, for the grocery store burglary – he is in drug rehab every day. He is working on a GED and he started a prayer circle, Patterson said.
“Please have mercy on me,” he asked.
Patterson had options, the judge said. He could have sought help for his drug addiction, for a chance to earn his way just like everyone else, Craig said. Also, his sentence needs to speak to anyone else who believes in violating others and stealing the things they have worked hard for. The sentence needs to speak to the people who have learned of the Johnsons and Balto, Craig said.
He imposed a 20-year sentence for burglary and five years for aggravated cruelty to animals. The sentences are consecutive to each other and consecutive to the prison term he is now serving.