PITTSFIELD -- A heroin addict who stole jewelry from his grandmother and a former teacher was sentenced on Thursday to 2 1/2 years in jail on 22 charges.

James M. Mullen, 23, of Brown Street, was involved in a series of break-in and thefts in North Adams and Pittsfield from August 2012 to April 2013, according to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

Mullen was responsible for two break-ins and the theft of heirloom jewelry from homes, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano said, and stole items from his grandmother, including checks that he forged amounting to more than $1,000.

He was arrested in April 2013 by the Pittsfield police in connection with the break-in at a Warwick Street residence. When arrested, he was in possession of stolen jewelry, lied to police about his name and then tried to pin the break-in on someone else who wasn't involved, Yorlano said.

The investigations into the crimes were handled by the North Adams and Pittsfield police departments.

Mullen pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday to multiple counts of breaking and entering, larceny over $250 from a person over 60 years of age, receiving stolen property over $250 and forgery, among other crimes.

One count of common and notorious thief was dismissed at the request of the DA's Office.

One of the victims, a former teacher of the defendant, told the court she and her husband had suffered a monetary loss as well as a loss of their "sense of security.


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She turned to Mullen at one point and said, "I wish you well" and told him "there's a better way to live."

Another victim wrote that she had suffered "emotional stress" because of the crimes and said Mullen had no regard for other's property.

Yorlano asked Judge John Agostini to "send a message" that "this type of behavior won't be tolerated" and sentence Mullen to at least two years and up to three years in state prison on the charges.

Mullen's attorney, Richard D. LeBlanc, asked Agostini to send a different message -- that when someone needs and wants help for addiction "that that is heard" by the criminal justice system.

"My client is a heroin addict and has been for a number of years," the attorney told the court. "This kid needs help."

LeBlanc said his client had spent about 10 months in jail unable to make bail. He asked that the court sentence Mullen to time served and a long probation period. The lawyer said there was a residential drug treatment program that was willing to take Mullen and if need be he would drive Mullen there himself.

Agostini, after a lengthy discussion with the probation department, said he would take a "carrot and stick" approach and sentenced Mullen to 2 1/2 years at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction and four years of probation that includes attending substance abuse counseling and any other treatment required by the probation department.

The judge told Mullen he hoped he would be able to deal with his drug problem but that if he was "unwilling or unable" to do so he would end up serving a longer state prison sentence than that requested by the DA's Office. He said he would be considered "a lost cause" by the system and he would likely end up spending the rest of his short life going in and out of prison.

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