Almanac

News - August 17, 2011

Portola Valley crime: Woman faces prison, again

• She has been to prison nine times.

by Dave Boyce

Another confinement in state prison, or in the San Mateo County jail, could be ahead for San Francisco resident Jennifer Leigh Prince, 40, who has a connection to a series of December 2010 Portola Valley property crimes.

Ms. Leigh Prince, who has been in prison nine times, pleaded no contest on Aug. 8 to possession of stolen property and identity theft, both felonies, prosecutors said.

Her offenses, including grand theft and auto burglary, were neither violent nor "serious," so she is not subject to an automatic three-strikes prison sentence, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Almanac.

In the plea agreement, prosecutors had asked that Ms. Leigh Prince plead guilty and be sentenced to five years in prison with no chance of parole, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said in a telephone interview.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak modified the agreement to the include a range of possible sentences, from probation all the way up to a maximum of seven years behind bars, Ms. Guidotti said.

A probation report and sentencing is set for Oct. 4. Ms. Leigh Prince remains in jail on bail of $25,000, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Because the sentencing takes place after a budget-cutting measure takes effect to send nonviolent, non-serious offenders to county jails instead of prison, the judge will have that option, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

Ms. Leigh Prince's attorney did not respond to an interview request.

The Portola Valley connection occurred at around 6 a.m. on Dec. 23, 2010, when a deputy from the county Sheriff's Office, called to investigate an auto burglary in the Brookside Park neighborhood, discovered two women sitting in a green Jeep Cherokee parked on Crescent Avenue with no license plates, according to a deputy's account.

While examining the women's IDs, the deputy noticed an object in the vehicle that resembled an object reported stolen in the auto burglary, at which point the driver put the Jeep into gear and drove off, the deputy said. The deputy gave chase but lost sight of the vehicle.

A Sheriff's Office report subsequently noted three thefts and two burglaries reported for Dec. 23 in Brookside Park.

The next day in a traffic stop, San Mateo police arrested Ms. Leigh Prince. She allegedly gave the officer an ID and was in possession of a checkbook that were reported stolen in two Coastside auto burglaries three weeks earlier. There also was a warrant out for her arrest, and she was in possession of four $20 bills with the same serial number, deputies said.

After consulting with Sheriff's Office investigators, police determined that Ms. Prince had been driving the green Jeep that night in Portola Valley.

The report is silent on whether the second woman in the Jeep was ever caught.

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