SAN DIEGO - A man who broke into the La Jolla home of food writer Jeanne Jones with an accomplice and stole nearly $250,000 worth of jewelry, including her grandmother's wedding ring, was sentenced Tuesday to four years in state prison.
Leon Powell, 27, pleaded guilty in January to a burglary charge with a "hot prowl" allegation. He faced a maximum six years behind bars.
Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wang told Judge Charles Gill that Powell and his accomplice targeted Jones' residence despite the fact that she had installed a 24-hour surveillance system and taken other security measures following a similar break-in more than three years earlier.
On the night of Nov. 5, 2010, three thieves wearing ski masks forced their way into the La Jolla home, threatening Jones, her husband, a housekeeper and a nurse with guns.
Jones, 77, told the judge that in the latest burglary, which occurred last Oct. 5, she was awakened after midnight by two men rummaging through her belongings and had a cell phone ripped out of her hand when she tried to call for help.
The burglars cut the wires to the surveillance system and tore down a wall, stealing priceless jewelry including a wedding ring belonging to Jones' grandmother, which she planned to give to her granddaughter someday.
The only property recovered was jewelry the intruders dropped outside the house as they fled.
"I'm just in shock how people can do that to other people," Jones said.
To this day, Jones has nightmares about two men breaking into her home, she told the judge.
Defense attorney James Pokorny, arguing for a two-year prison term, said Powell was a caring and giving person who was remorseful for what happened.
Powell didn't think anyone was home when he broke into Jones' residence, Pokorny said.
"He (Powell) clearly got pulled into something over his head," the defense attorney told the judge. "He shouldn't have done it."
Investigators identified Powell as one of the intruders in the break-in last October based on Jones' description, and he was arrested three weeks later in Inglewood.
Police are still looking for the second intruder.