MURRIETA, Calif. – A former gang member faces life in prison after being convicted in a jewelry heist that resembled robberies he described in a memoir about gang life.
Jurors on Monday found Colton Simpson, 41, guilty of robbery, burglary and grand theft for his roll in the March 17, 2003, heist at a department store jewelry counter in Temecula, about 60 miles north of San Diego.
Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson III had permitted Simpson's memoir, "Inside the Crips: Life Inside L.A.'s Most Notorious Gang," to be presented as evidence during the trial, over defense objections.
Simpson faces life in prison under the state's three strikes law because he has previous felony convictions.
Prosecutors said a visit Simpson made to the jewelry counter two days before the robbery was similar to scenes he detailed in the 2005 book, in which he said he started robbing jewelry stores when he turned 14.
"I love doing jewelry licks," Simpson wrote. "It gets so I go in alone, ask to see a Rolex, grab two, dash out the store, turn them around, and have eight thousand dollars stuffed in my pocket."
The judge barred prosecutors from presenting passages from the book relating to Simpson's gang activity, but defense attorney Richard Briones-Colman said even the book's title could have prejudiced them against his client.
"It was obviously damaging that the book came in," said Briones-Colman.
Simpson was accused of being the mastermind and getaway car driver in the heist that netted a single diamond earring. Two unidentified men, who have not been prosecuted, allegedly entered the store and took the earring.
Prosecutor Charles Lockwood declined to comment on the verdict because Simpson has not been sentenced.
Simpson's sentencing was set for Sept. 28. Briones-Colman said he will ask the judge to