The Morning Report
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One by one, San Diego Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lewis read through the criminal charges against Dragon Jones, 41, of Tijuana. When she got to the ninth count of armed robbery, she paused. She lost her place in the lengthy list, regained it and continued through.

For committing armed robbery of 20 small businesses throughout San Diego County last fall, Jones faced 24 years in prison. This afternoon, Lewis sentenced him to 14 years, saying he lacked a prior criminal record and showed remorse for his crimes.

Jones is the serial armed robber from last fall who became known as the “Back Room Bandit” because he ordered clerks to the back of their stores before leaving. Police arrested him crossing the border on Halloween and he pleaded guilty to all 20 charges in December.

At today’s court hearing, Jones told Lewis that the armed robberies were “a huge mistake in my life. … Whatever time you give me, I know I’ll be a changed man.”

Last week, Jones talked with me about that mistake from the Chula Vista jail where he was awaiting sentencing. He agreed to meet and talk about his armed robbery experiences. As we talked, he repeatedly emphasized his Christian background and a renewed connection with God since being in jail. He meets with other inmates and helps them read the Bible. He recommended the bestselling book “Purpose Driven Life.”

“I’ve been blessed since I’ve been arrested,” he said. “I hope one day, if I do get out, I can only do His work.”

At Monday’s hearing, deputy district attorney Amy Maund questioned the sincerity of Jones’ apology and described the emotional damage caused by his armed robbery spree. Female store clerks were terrorized and suffered enough distress to quit their jobs or change their work hours, Maund said. He stole thousands of dollars.

“These are tough times for everybody in San Diego County,” Maund said, “but one doesn’t try to commit violent crimes and then get leniency with the court.”

— KEEGAN KYLE

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