Probation denied in burglary case

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BISHOPVILLE - Third Circuit Judge George C. James said Tuesday he can count on one hand the times he's given probation to a defendant who had already received probation more than three times.

He declined that same day to grant probation, or even house arrest, for William Albert Harrison, 45, of 1010 Featherwood Road in Turbeville, who pleaded guilty on Monday at the Lee County Courthouse to third-degree burglary and failure to stop for a blue light. Harrison received 20 months to run concurrently on each charge, while James revoked 20 months of probation Harrison was serving on a prior second-degree burglary conviction from 2011.

Harrison was the county's first planned trial in general sessions court in 2013 but pleaded guilty shortly after 12 jurors were chosen to hear 3rd Circuit Assistant Solicitor Cliff Scott's case against him.

Scott said Harrison had been granted probation for prior property crimes on "at least six occasions."

Harrison's run from the police - his third since 2001, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Department - began on July 29, 2011, shortly after the owner of a home in the 800 block of Woodrow Road in Bishopville told police that Harrison and another male attempted to enter his home while his 17-year-old daughter was inside. The young woman told police she noticed two men trying to get into the home and that she fled through a window.

The homeowner later saw the men flee in a Dodge Caravan and later discovered he was missing a Troy Bilt garden tiller valued at $300. About three hours after the owner called police, another deputy spotted a similar vehicle driving on Coopers Mill Road in Bishopville.

The deputy was eventually able to get a facial description that matched that of Harrison's. After a chase that included speeds that topped 100 mph, the deputy saw the van "(break) into a skid and (travel) sideways across the intersection (of Trinity Road and S.C. 56)."

Deputies lost Harrison but were able to identify him from fingerprints lifted from the van.

Harrison was charged about a month later with failure to stop, second-degree burglary and third-degree burglary, though reports do not indicate how deputies located him. Scott said Tuesday that his office will be dropping the second-degree burglary charge in exchange for Harrison's plea.

Scott told James that Harrison's record included convictions for grand larceny in 1991, 2006 and 2011; forgery in 1992; and receiving stolen goods in 2005.

"He's been under probation five or six times that I can see, and he's requesting probation again," James said before sentencing. "I don't like sending people to prison. But there comes a point where you have to make the decision. This incident occurred in broad daylight in the county on a two-lane highway in the summer when kids could be out. It's got to stop somewhere."

Reach Robert J. Baker at (803) 774-1211.