It's not that Rasheed Yusuf Ali planned on committing a crime. In fact, when he got out of prison in 1997, he had every intention of going straight.
But in May, when a man on a Herndon street corner offered to sell him some jewelry, he just couldn't resist. He bought it and pawned it for cash. Trouble was, it was jewelry stolen from a Clifton home and, when Fairfax County police nabbed him, July 1, they charged him with receiving stolen property.
Last Friday in Circuit Court, Ali, 29, of 1624 Purple Sage Drive in Reston, received something else — a sentence of 15 months in prison. Since his criminal record includes two prior burglaries and a pair of probation violations, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Ben ' Ary urged Judge M. Langhorne Keith to put him behind bars.
"In this case, the defendant is not a suitable candidate for probation," he said. "He was on parole at the time of this offense and ... given [his] record on probation, he should be sentenced to a straight prison sentence."
On May 26, a couple in the 12300 block of Henderson Road in Clifton called police to report a burglary. The thief had entered by kicking in a back door. Stolen was a Colt 45 handgun, plus several pieces of jewelry valued at more than $50,000. They belonged to the wife and were taken from the master bedroom closet on the second floor.
Among the jewelry reported missing were pearl, diamond, sapphire, ruby, onyx and emerald rings. One ring, alone, had six blue sapphires and six diamonds, and another featured 12 rubies and 13 diamonds. The earrings included ones made of topaz, diamonds, pearls, tanzanite and rubies. The victim listed a pilfered pair of diamond stud earrings as being worth $13,208.
The stolen bracelets were of sapphires, diamonds, pearls, onyx, garnet and jade. One diamond and white-gold tennis bracelet was valued at $17,500. The necklaces were pearl, diamond and gold. Taken, as well, were several precious stones — a ruby, diamond, emerald and sapphire. The thief also swiped a Canon camera with portrait lens.
Police provided the woman of the house with a list of local pawn shops, and she searched them for her missing jewelry. On June 24, she called Det. Nancy Reynolds to say she'd found several of her items at Tysons Art and Jewelry Exchange at 8150 Leesburg Pike in Vienna.
The next day, she and her husband identified 10 pieces of jewelry there as belonging to them. And the store manager told Reynolds that Ali was the person who'd sold the jewelry to the store. Employees there also recognized Ali as being a regular customer since February 2002. Furthermore, wrote Reynolds in an affidavit seeking permission to search Ali's home and car, they said "he has been known to bring in large quantities of fine jewelry."
When Ali returned to the store a week later, July 1, trying to sell a loose diamond, police were called and they took him into custody. They charged him with receiving stolen merchandise, and he admitted to Reynolds that he knew the jewelry was stolen. On Nov. 9 in Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty, and he returned Friday for sentencing.
When Ali was first questioned by police, Ben ' Ary told Judge Keith, "He first said he didn't know the jewelry was real. Once he went to the jewelry exchange, they confirmed that it was real."
But defense attorney Greg Beckwith said his client was a nice guy who'd made some poor choices. "He's well-read and articulate, and he has potential beyond belief," said Beckwith. "This case really is about an individual who was released from prison after having been given 25 years on property-related crimes — which is more than many people receive for manslaughter."
And since Ali was on probation for 1990-92 larceny-related offenses at the time of his latest crime, Beckwith said he may also be slapped with seven additional years of prison because some of his previously suspended time may now be revoked.
He then tried his best to stress Ali's good points, noting that after he was freed from prison, he took college courses and other training and held good jobs — including one as a database administrator for Nextel. After pawning the hot jewelry, said Beckwith, Ali "received $400 and bought a CD player for his brother, some CDs for himself and a gym bag. And he told police the identity of the person from whom he'd purchased the jewelry."
Then Ali stood and told the judge of his good intentions. "When I was released in 1997, my plan was to stay out of trouble," he said. "And I did — for five years. I got married and had a daughter, and committing crimes was behind me. When I purchased those items, I should have put more thought into it. I regret that decision."
Keith then sentenced Ali to five years in prison, suspending all but 15 months, "conditioned on his good behavior."