Back in 1993, Washington voters wanted to get tough on crime. So they resoundingly passed our state's "three strikes" habitual offender law, officially known as the Persistent Offender Accountability Act. It has the ability to send repeat criminal offenders away to prison for life after a third conviction.
And, as we've been occasionally reminded in the aftermath of the law's passage, that third strike can come for something as seemingly trivial as stealing eight packs of Marlboro cigarettes and $60 - which is exactly the crime that did in 29-year-old Keith Puett.
As Diana Hefley of the Everett Herald details, after Puett pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Jan. 18 armed robbery of a Snohomish County convenience store - in which the aforementioned cigarettes and cash were made off with - on Wednesday a superior court judge had "no option" other than to order the repeat offender to a life sentence. Puett had previously been convicted of pointing a gun at two people back in 2002, and in 2004 he beat a man with a wooden post.
Strangely, the life sentence was an outcome Puett brought upon himself - in more ways than just by committing the crimes. According to the Herald, Puett pleaded guilty to the convenience store robbery despite the fact his lawyer urged him not to, and it's a decision that likely has to do with his relationship with his girlfriend.
Puett seemed to be swayed to plead guilty in part because prosecutors threatened to seek a no-contact order between him and his girlfriend. Puett's jailhouse phone conversations with the woman had been recorded. In some of those conversations, Puett threatened the woman, demanding that she lie to authorities in an attempt to provide an alibi for the day of the robbery.
If Puett had gone to trial, prosecutors expected to tack on additional charges stemming from the threatening phone conversations. They also would have asked the judge to prohibit Puett from contacting the woman for five years.
Defense attorney Max Harrison explained during the plea hearing that Puett loved the woman and didn't want to face prison without being able to communicate with her.
"I have to say I'm not in favor of this. It's his call, not mine," Harrison said.
Is Puett's decision romantic or stupid? Almost certainly the latter.
However, as the Herald story notes as its walk-off line, "Puett held his girlfriend's gaze as he was led out of the courtroom Wednesday."