Man convicted in Lawrence grease thefts sentenced to probation
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office
Almost a year after pleading guilty in two cases stemming from thefts of grease, a man has been sentenced to probation, and he told the judge he’s going to turn his life around.
Byron P. Aston, 30, previously of Springfield, Mo., was charged Feb. 27, 2019, with felony theft for allegedly stealing more than a ton of used cooking grease from bins behind three downtown Lawrence restaurants. Prosecutors said Aston came back to Lawrence for a court hearing that July and afterward stole grease and a grease bin from another downtown restaurant. Police said they also found a modified shotgun and a stolen rifle in his truck at that time.
As the Journal-World has reported, grease theft is a problem that has been likened to theft of scrap metal. Companies can make money off of converting used grease into biodiesel products through processing plants.
On Dec. 19, Aston pleaded guilty to theft in his first case and to criminal use of weapons in the second. Since-retired Judge Peggy Kittel granted Aston an own-recognizance bond in both cases so he could be released from jail pending sentencing. He was expected to face probation, though Kittel told Aston at the time that he had a lot riding on his actions.
photo by: Sara Shepherd/Journal-World File Photo
Aston did miss his sentencing hearing back in January, and a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. He was booked into the Douglas County Jail again on Nov. 17.
On Thursday, Aston’s attorney, Dakota Loomis, told the judge that Aston had been in custody in Missouri cases for some time, but those had been resolved.
Judge Stacey Donovan agreed to follow the recommendations that Senior Assistant District Attorney Cathy Eaton and Loomis made as part of the plea agreement, and she sentenced Aston to 12 months of probation in both cases, to run consecutively for 24 months total.
Aston told the judge that he’s going to stay in Lawrence and participate in the Artists Helping the Homeless program to get back on his feet, and once he does, he has jobs lined up.
“I’m going to go for it, full blown,” Aston said. “Turn my life around.”
As a probation condition, Aston will not be allowed to work in grease collection or recycling. He must complete 25 hours of community service in each of the two cases, and he must write a letter of apology and pay $569 in restitution to the company that owns the grease bins.
Donovan asked Aston about his dependents, and he said he has five children. Donovan waived part of his court costs, and she said it sounded like he had a big family and a lot of reasons to stay out of custody. She wished him luck and said she hoped not to see him before the court again.
Should Aston fail to successfully complete his probation, he would face 20 months in prison, followed by post-release supervision, under the plea agreement.
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• Dec. 19, 2019: Missouri man pleads guilty in Lawrence grease theft case
• July 22, 2019: Man in grease theft case faces new charges, will go to trial