LOS ANGELES – Doris Payne , the 83-year-old jewelry thief whose rap sheet dates back decades, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing a diamond ring from a Riverside County jewelry store.
The octogenarian was sentenced to four years in custody — two in county jail, two under mandatory supervision — after pleading guilty to one felony count each of burglary and grand theft, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office.
Judge William Lebov also ordered Payne stay away from all jewelry stores during that time, Hall said.
Hall said his office objected to the plea and sentence, instead arguing for a maximum of six years in custody. He cited “numerous aggravating factors.”
“Those include a criminal history dating back to 1952, crimes having been committed across the United States as well as internationally, that she used her age to gain the trust of victims, a previous failure to successfully complete probation and parole, and that she was on parole when she committed the crime charged in this case,” Hall wrote in an email.
But one of Payne’s attorneys, Gretchen von Helms, called the judge’s decision “a very thoughtful response.” Payne, she said, was “very grateful.”
“The judge tempered punishment with compassion about her age,” von Helms said. “He took into account the taxpayers’ pocketbook. And do we really need to incarcerate a nonviolent offender — yes, a repeat offender, that’s true — who’s ill, who has emphysema, who’s elderly?”
Payne made headlines in October when she was arrested for swiping the $22,500 diamond-and-white-gold ring from El Paseo Jewelers, part of an upscale Palm Desert shopping center. At the time, she had been out of prison for only about three months.
Payne’s notoriety now borders on fame as her globe-spanning exploits have been featured on TV, in newspapers and in a documentary, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” There has also been talk of Halle Berry starring in a movie about her life.