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17 years in prison for man who stole van with baby inside

Jason Darryl Fries, 34, was sentenced to 17 years in prison by Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Hantman on Thursday for stealing a van with a 3-month-old baby inside.

He had been charged with child abuse and kidnapping but Pima County prosecutor Jonathan Mosher said the other charges were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea for the theft of the vehicle.

Defense attorney Julian A. Ore-Giron said Fries had an offer from an aunt in Kentucky to take him in and help him change his life. She said he had successfully received drug rehabilitation “services” provided by the Pima County Jail’s contracted medical provider, ConMed.

Fries, smiling, told Hantman he had been a meth addict since age 14 and said he would try to change his life if given less than the maximum sentence of 20 years.

Fries said that although he saw baby car seats in the van and toys – and the door to the van was open when he stole it – he did not see the baby in the car seat behind the driver’s seat. More than 50 sheriff’s deputies searched the Northwest Side for the infant, who was inside the van in 100-degree heat for more than a hour Oct. 28. The baby was not seriously injured. Fries told the judge Thursday he stole the van on impulse “because it was there.”

The van was found a couple of blocks away in an alley behind the home where he lived.

Mosher told the judge Fries had five prior felony convictions and deserved 18 to 20 years in prison for stealing the van.

He told the judge Fries used meth and had sex with his girlfriend immediately after stealing the van. He said Fries must have looked inside the van for something else to steal, like a CD player, and rejected Fries assertion that he didn’t see the baby.

Hantman said he believed Fries’ assertion that he didn’t know the baby was in the van.

Mosher said the plea deal allowed for a 10- to 20-year prison sentence. Charges of kidnapping against Fries were dropped in the plea deal because Mosher said the state couldn’t prove Fries knew there was a baby in the car.

Mosher said the mother of the baby had pulled into her driveway and, in a hurry to take another child inside to use the bathroom, left the baby in the car with the door open and the keys in the ignition.

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