Petty Hot Dog Thief to Spend 80 Years in Prison

Back in 2009, Charles Cleveland Nowden was busted at a Fort Worth movie theater for trying to purchase a lethal junk-food combo meal—two hot dogs, two cokes, and popcorn—with a counterfeit $20. This week, he received an 80-year prison sentence. Fort Worth's snack community is safe again!

We all know that Texas is tough on crime, but eight decades for a botched hot dog buy seems a bit excessive. Perhaps we're missing a few facts about Nowden's background that would lend perspective to his harsh punishment. Dallas Morning News, please tell us what you know:

[A]fter Nowden was arrested, a police officer found $120 in additional counterfeit bills tucked inside the hot dog wrapper.

During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecutors presented evidence on two of Nowden's pending theft charges in Tarrant County and on another theft charge in Lamar County.

In 2008, Nowden was arrested when he was found in possession of stolen allterrain vehicles. In 2010, Nowden was linked through DNA to a stolen 18-wheeler truck. And in 2011, he was caught stealing lawnmowers from a lot that sells farm equipment in Paris, Texas.

The jury also heard that Nowden had previous federal convictions for bank fraud, possessing counterfeit cigarettes, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The jury was able to consider those extraneous offenses and other bad acts in determining his punishment.

Ohhhh, he stole lawnmowers. And was a nonviolent felon with a gun, in a state known for its gun culture. (He's also black.) Now it makes sense. (He should have been a corporate executive with a $75 million Ponzi scheme and gotten busted by the feds—only 17 years in prison instead of 80.)

If Nowden had been convicted in California, he might have received a life sentence. Under Texas sentencing guidelines, he could get out after only serving 15 years. Texas is too soft on crime.

[Dallas Morning News, Beaumont Enterprise. Image via Shutterstock]