A man serving 25 years to life for a third-strike conviction based on an incident in which he attempted to steal food from a church was ordered this week to be released from prison, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza saying he didn't deserve such harsh time.

A judge opposed to sentencing 48-year-old Gregory Taylor to a third strike more than 10 years ago compared his saga to Les Miserables. Espinoza seemed to agree when he revised the sentence to eight years — time Taylor had already served. He was due to be released in the next few days.

Taylor was described in court as a homeless drug addict who was caught breaking into the soup kitchen of St. Joseph's Church, a crime that earned him a third strike after he was convicted twice of strong-arm robbery in 1984 and 1985. None of his crimes was considered violent, however. Espinoza said the church break-in was a crime of “drug addiction and homelessness.''

Even Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, calling the 25-to-life sentence “draconian,” did not oppose Taylor's release. “Fortunately,” he said, “you have a good judge who listened to the petitions presented to him.”

Taylor's case was taken up by Stanford Law School's Three Strikes Project after the legal clinic discovered his plight via the 2004 book by Joe Domanick, Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State.

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

LA Weekly