Two men accused of stealing a generator on St. Thomas appeared in court together Friday morning —but only one was returned to jail in handcuffs after their advice-of-rights hearing.
The theft of the $1,200 generator occurred early Thursday morning from a food van on Tvaer Gade in Charlotte Amalie.
According to police, the owner had left the generator in a custom, purpose-built iron cage on the outside of the van, which was secured with a lock — and monitored by security cameras.
Police reviewed the surveillance footage, which shows a light-skinned man with a bolt cutter trying to pry the lock box open at around 2:38 a.m. At 2:43 a.m., the video shows a dark-skinned man arrive and assist in breaking open the box.
“The camera system went black when the suspects disconnected the power from the generator,” according to the affidavit filed by police.
Police also watched surveillance tapes from a neighboring apartment complex, which show a third man arrive with an empty shopping cart that was used to help haul the generator away.
A detective recognized the third man as David Schaffner from prior encounters, and also identified Craig Stevens as the person who assisted with the bolt cutter, according to the affidavit.
Police located and arrested Schaffner and Stevens, who “did not want to reveal who suspect [No. 1] is in this incident,” according to the affidavit. They were both charged with grand larceny, aiding and abetting, and possession of stolen property, and were held in jail overnight on $20,000 bond each until their initial court appearance Friday.
But Magistrate Judge Carolyn Hermon-Purcell said she wasn’t satisfied with the “skimpy information” in the police affidavit “as to how Mr. Stevens was identified,” because the subject on the surveillance video had his face covered with a drawstring bag and police gave only a vague description of the clothing he was wearing.
Assistant V.I. Attorney General Brenda Scales asked for the case to be continued so the detective who identified him could be brought into court to testify. But Territorial Public Defender Julie Todman countered prosecutors can “always refile” the case, rather than make Stevens sit in jail over the weekend.
The judge agreed that prosecutors will have to wait until they have more evidence Stevens was involved, and dismissed charges against him “without prejudice,” meaning they can be refiled at a future date.
Hermon-Purcell warned Stevens that prosecutors “will more than likely seek to refile this matter against you,” before ordering him released.
After Stevens left the holding cell where detainees appear in court via videoconference, the judge turned her attention to Schaffner.
Since he moved to St. Thomas in 2015, Schaffner has had 10 arrests and two convictions, and his previous criminal history spans several states. Scales said she has tried to count up all of Schaffner’s convictions but she “can never get through to the end,” as his arrest record is “a quarter inch thick.”
“His main crimes are thefts and assaults” and Scales said Schaffner is a habitual offender and “a danger to the community. He’s injured police officers, including police officers who were attempting to help him.”
The judge agreed that Schaffner poses a danger to the community, and kept bond at $20,000 and said he must post 10% in cash in order to be released pending trial.