A Hall County jury found a Gainesville man guilty of theft by taking, robbery by force and battery after deliberating for about five hours Tuesday.
Richard Chambers, 40, was one of three co-defendants charged in a Nov. 10 carjacking that the accused said resulted from confusion arising from a relationship gone bad, and prosecutors said was petty theft.
The two co-defendants, Mitchell Adams and Stephanie Samples, have already pleaded guilty.
Because of his repeat offender status, Chambers faces a lengthy prison sentence, up to 66 years. The maximum on the theft charges, one for a stolen Jeep and one for a firearm, are each 10 years, and the maximum is 20 years each on two counts of robbery by force. The maximum for the battery charge is one year.
Chambers filed a guilty plea for the possession of a gun by a convicted felon charge, which carries a five-year maximum sentence.
Both prosecution and defense made final arguments to the jury Tuesday morning.
On a drive back to her apartment, Samples spotted the 1989 Jeep, and, believing it belonged to her, flagged the car down, according to testimony.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office had initially reported that "police impersonators" with a blue light pursued the victim. A different sort of picture was painted by witnesses for the defense.
Adams, Samples and Chambers all testified that they had never intended to rob an innocent victim of his Jeep.
Chambers testified he believed he was helping Samples recover her property and protecting her from a violent ex-boyfriend.
"You cannot let someone just pull over someone, and assault them, and take their Jeep and walk out of this courtroom not guilty," Hall County Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva argued.
"The state’s theory is that this was a specific intent on these three to rob this individual of his Jeep. But does this look like a robbery?" Hoffer posed to jurors.
Sachdeva argued that intent could be formed moments before the act.
"Intent can be formed in an instant. These three individuals tried to steal a Jeep," he said.
He also said the defense’s own witness, Samples, had worked against them, and that she had no incentive to lie on the stand.
"Why would Ms. Samples lie? She was trying to minimize as much as possible. She still has feelings for this defendant," he said.
But Hoffer argued that the defense deliberately wanted the jury to see Samples’ bizarre demeanor and motivation.
"One of the reasons we called Stephanie was so you could see her, not so much for the substance that she could give you or the truth that she could somehow shed light on, but we wanted you to see her testify," he said. "The entire reason why Richard is sitting in this chair today is because of Stephanie. ... She was very shifty. She changed her story several times. We are not tied to her in any way. We blame her in lots of ways for what occurred that day on the side of Thompson Bridge Road."
Sachdeva alleged that it was Chambers who had lied on the stand.
"He lied about living with her. He lied about how he got the gun. And the lies got bigger," he said.
He argued that his record of theft and forgery undermined Chambers’ credibility.
Chambers will be sentenced Thursday morning in Hall County Superior Court by Judge Jason Deal, who has discretion whether sentences are served concurrent or consecutive, and if Chambers will be paroled for any portion of the sentence. Any prison time he receives is not subject to parole because of recidivism sentencing.