Man arrested 55 times could dodge lengthy prison stay if new law passes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Crime Stoppers tip led to Kenneth Sheppard, 61, being captured by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office Warrant Division less than a week after the office put out an alert, wanting him for attempted second degree murder.

Sheppard allegedly beat a man nearly to death during a fight last month, but it's certainly not his first run-in with the law. Records show he has been arrested 55 times now.

"He's been arrested for felony theft, possession of cocaine, and armed robbery," said EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore.

With a rap sheet that long, Moore says it's possible the alleged career criminal could face habitual offender status if he is found guilty. Under Louisiana law, those with two or more felonies in a ten-year period could face more jail time.

"We rarely use the habitual offender statute here. We use it when the public safety dictates it and demands it and we really need to take a look at his whole body of work here before we make that decision," Moore added.

A new proposal to lawmakers could limit Sheppard's time behind bars by making the window of time prosecutors could use smaller. "If the legislature were to narrow it down to five years, he'd be looking at being a first offender," Moore said.

Right now, Sheppard has a felony theft conviction from 2011 and another pending theft case from last year. If the habitual offender statute is used, he faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years to life in prison. Without it, he could see as few as ten years. Moore says the measure could have unintended consequences.

"I don't want my hands tied because I want to make sure that I ensure public safety in Baton Rouge under those cases that need it and if the legislature has its way under those proposed bills, that's not going to happen," he said.

The goal of the plan, proposed by the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, is to decrease the state's incarceration rate, but Moore says it could keep more offenders on the streets. "Things may fall through the cracks and you may not find out about it until it's too late and somebody else has been victimized," he added.

The measure is expected to go before state lawmakers during the regular session, which starts on Monday, April 10.

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