NORTHAMPTON — A Greenfield man admitted in Hampshire Superior Court on Monday to stealing a cash box containing about $400 from a group of Girl Scouts as they sold cookies at Wal-Mart.
Nicholas Taverna, 25, was hardly audible when he addressed Judge Mary-Lou Rup as he pleaded guilty to theft from a person, assault and battery with a deadly weapon and shoplifting. Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jayme Parent argued Taverna should be sentenced to two and a half years in the House of Corrections, with 18 months suspended.
Taverna faced up to 15 years in state prison, but instead was placed on three years probation.
On Jan. 19, 2013, Taverna approached a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies in the foyer of Wal-Mart, 180 N. King St., and took their cash box off the table before fleeing in a car allegedly driven by Cassidy Michalski, 28,of Deerfield, Parent said in court.
A Girl Scouts chaperone grabbed onto a door of the getaway car, a gray sedan, but fell to the pavement as it left the parking lot — cracking the man’s glasses, breaking his nose and causing several cuts and bruises to his face, hands and arms, Parent added.
Police tracked the car and arrested Taverna and Michalski soon after.
Security at Wal-Mart told police that Taverna was also seen on surveillance video taking cell phones from the store, Parent said. The two men planned to exchange the cell phones for heroin, police said.
Defense attorney Bonnie Allen, of Northampton, said Taverna is not a career criminal. Instead, she added, he was motivated by a heroin addiction and influenced by Michalski.
Allen told the judge that, in the past three years, Taverna has taken significant positive steps, including making the dean’s list at a community college with plans to enroll at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“He’s made some life changes that were sorely needed,” Allen said in court. “I would suggest that him being incarcerated at this juncture would seriously derail a good effort to a new life.”
The judge agreed and sentenced Taverna to three years probation. He was also ordered to pay back the Girl Scouts their $413 in cookie funds as well as money to replace the man’s glasses – estimated at $730 three years ago, Parent said in court.
“I’m going to give you a chance to prove to everybody that the efforts you’ve made over the past several years are, in fact, a reflection of what you’re capable of, and what you can do moving forward with your life,” Rup said to Taverna.
As part of his probation terms, he may not have any contact with the victims, must attend substance abuse therapy as designated by the probation department and abstain from any alcohol or drug use.
Meanwhile, Michalski, who faces the same charges asTaverna, is due in court March 16.
Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.