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Copper thief gets 10-year term


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POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

The leader of a copper theft ring was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison.

In a wavering voice, James B. Taylor, also known as “;Freeway Jimmy,”; apologized in court for his crimes.

“;I'd just like to apologize to the state, to my family,”; he said, crying as he turned to look at his family members, seated in the gallery. “;I'm embarrassed. I love them very much.”;

Between 2005 and 2008, Taylor and nine others stole 155,144 feet of wire from lampposts and utility boxes along the H-1 and H-2 freeways. The total value of the copper wiring was estimated at more than $563,000.

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The ring, broken up after a two-year investigation, allegedly sold the copper for $144,800 in 478 transactions.

Circuit Judge Karen Ahn sentenced Taylor on charges of criminal conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering, all Class B felonies.

Taylor's wife, Regina Foster, who was considered by the state as one of the organizers of the ring, was earlier sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Taylor, Foster and eight other people involved in the ring have taken responsibility for the crime, according to Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro Jr. The 10th person has yet to go to trial.

Outside the courtroom, Taylor's niece, Jazmin Taylor, said her uncle's drug habit led him to commit the crimes.

“;We feel proud that he accepted responsibility for his actions,”; she said, tears brimming in her eyes. “;He does have a good heart. He's a good person inside. But the only thing that made him do all this was a really bad drug habit.”;

Attorney Dean Young, who represented Taylor, said. “;He wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He knew he hurt the community, his family and tried to make things right.”;