Crime

Homeless man gets prison for vandalizing Matt Garza’s Ferrari

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza during a game in September. The former Fresno State star’s garage was vandalized last spring.
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza during a game in September. The former Fresno State star’s garage was vandalized last spring. AP

A homeless man was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for damaging a $300,000 Ferrari at the home of Major League Baseball pitcher Matt Garza.

The crime happened in a gated community northeast of Clovis in April.

Kenneth Ray Smith, 52, offered in Fresno County Superior Court to pay the estimated $25,000 damage to the Ferrari instead of going to prison.

But Judge Houry Sanderson got upset with Smith, telling him that his attitude implied the crime was harmless because Garza has a large home, money and insurance to fix his sports car.

“He earned those things,” Sanderson told Smith. “You can’t just say, ‘It’s mine’ and help yourself to it.”

He earned those things. You can’t just say, ‘It’s mine’ and help yourself to it.

Fresno Superior Court Judge Houry Sanderson

Garza was a standout pitcher at Washington High School and Fresno State. He was the MVP of the 2008 American League Championship Series, beating the Boston Red Sox twice. This year he pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers.

In January 2012, sheriff’s detectives investigated a burglary at his previous home that resulted in theft of Garza’s 2008 American League championship ring he earned while playing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The ring, valued at $30,000, had several white diamonds and one yellow diamond, and Garza’s name was engraved on it. The Sheriff’s Office has not reported if the crime was solved.

In the latest incident, the Sheriff’s Office began investigating a break-in at Garza’s home off Tollhouse Road after his wife called 911 on April 27.

Garza was not home when the crime happened. But his wife and their children were so scared, they had to hide in their house, Sanderson said Tuesday at Smith’s sentencing hearing.

The Garzas did not attend.

According to prosecutor Richard Burchett Jr.’s trial brief, Garza’s wife told sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Hanson that she saw a man wearing a dark hoodie and a tote bag lurking near the detached garage of their home. Garza’s father, who helps take care of the property, told the deputy that a garage window was broken.

Inside, Hanson said he found several “softball-sized rocks.” The rocks and broken glass scratched the Ferrari and got into the car’s intake system, Burchett said.

Smith was later arrested and confessed to breaking into the garage by smashing the window, the trial brief says. Garza’s wife and a neighbor picked Smith out of photo lineup.

Smith was charged with burglary and vandalism, but in September the jury found him guilty only of vandalism after defense attorney Matthew Nemerson argued that Smith lacked the intent to burglarize Garza’s home.

Nemerson told the jury that Smith was homeless and was only looking for shelter. The jury voted 10-2 for guilty of burglary. To reach a verdict, the jury’s vote has to be unanimous.

Matt Garza, who pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers, was a standout pitcher at Washington High and Fresno State. He was the MVP of the 2008 ALCS, beating the Boston Red Sox twice.

At the sentencing hearing, Nemerson argued for a lesser prison term, saying Smith was homeless and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. In recent years, Smith has shown no violence and possibly has mental issues, Emerson told the judge.

Burchett, however, said the defense argument was offensive to homeless people who also struggle to survive every day, but commit no crimes. Burchett also cited Smith’s previous conviction for bank robbery in the 1990s.

Smith told the judge that he makes money by recycling.

In deciding the punishment, Sanderson said Smith presented “a disturbing situation” because he had knocked on the door at one of Garza’ neighbors the night before and asked for food and water. The female resident was rightly scared because Smith was a stranger in a dark hoodie, the judge said.

Sanderson said Smith’s argument that he was just seeking shelter also wasn’t valid because Garza’s four-car garage “was not a dilapidated structure or an out-building.” The judge said there was evidence that Smith “rifled through” some of Garza’s belongings.

“You could have gotten help,” Sanderson said, noting that Smith has tried all sorts of drugs in his lifetime, including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, PCP and Ecstasy and has been in an inpatient treatment program..

Sanderson sentenced Smith to prison because of his “lack of desire to conform to society” and unwillingness to accept responsibility.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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