Yesterday visiting Judge Frank Dougherty sentenced Carlton August Schuster to 26 years and 8 months in state prison. According to Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter, who was prosecuting Schuster on all his cases, on October 30, 2018 Schuster appeared at his parents’ home in Sonora to collect some mail as he had been previously barred from their residence. He got his mail and left. Shortly thereafter both parents left for work and when they returned they found that someone had entered their residence and removed a small safe that had been hidden in the home. A window to a bedroom appeared to be the point of entry. Drag marks from the safe were observed from the safe’s location, through the house to the garage. A neighbor had seen Schuster’s truck earlier that day entering the garage of the residence. The safe’s contents included a handgun, jewelry and personal identifying documents including passports.
Several days later members of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department made contact with Schuster and in his car were a number of items taken in the burglary including his parents’ passports. Schuster told deputies he had heard of the burglary and met up with “some people” whose names he would not mention and bought the items found in his truck to return to his parents. The gun and jewelry were never recovered. He was charged with First Degree Residential Burglary, and with having three prior strike convictions for First Degree Residential Burglary in 2012 and 2013. Sometime in late 2018 Schuster posted bail in the burglary case and on February 4, 2019 he was stopped for a traffic violation and found to be in possession of over two ounces or heroin and other controlled substances. After he was arrested and searched, Schuster was advised not to bring any drugs into the jail. In the jail he was found to have an additional 8 grams of methamphetamine. He was charged with a number of drug-related offenses and with having suffered prior strike convictions, as well as having committed these offenses while out on bail (an additional enhancement under the Penal Code).
While in jail on these latest charges jail deputies learned that Schuster was furnishing drugs to other inmates in exchange for money on their books (inmates have accounts they use to purchase items). During a search of Schuster, an item, a small clear plastic wrapper, was observed to fall from his underwear and that item turned out to be two individual portions of fentanyl (a very strong derivative of heroin). Schuster was also found to be under the influence of fentanyl. This resulted in additional felony charges for being in possession of controlled substances in jail. ADA Hovatter took the burglary case to trial in February 2020 and a jury convicted Schuster of the burglary and a misdemeanor vandalism charge. Prior to the trial Schuster admitted his prior strike convictions. After the trial Schuster pled guilty to several drug-related felonies in his other cases. Schuster’s maximum prison exposure in all three cases was 19 years 8 months followed by 25 years to life (the latter under the three strikes law for committing the strike offense of burglary while having been previously convicted of 2 or more strike offenses). At sentencing yesterday, Judge Dougherty questioned Schuster about his prior burglaries and other felony convictions as well as the facts in the burglary of his parent’s residence. Schuster admitted he sold his parent’s guns and jewelry to fuel his drug habit. Schuster’s attorney had petitioned the court to strike one of Schuster’s prior strike convictions so Schuster would not face a life sentence. ADA Hovatter opposed the petition arguing that Schuster’s history of criminal behavior, coupled with the theft and sale of a gun, qualified him for sentencing under the Three-Strikes Law. Judge Dougherty decided that because none of Schuster’s crimes involved physical violence he should be given a chance to turn his life around after a lengthy term of incarceration. Although Schuster was sentenced to 26 + years in state prison he would be eligible to be considered for parole in 6 years under the current state of the law.