Carthage man sent to prison on stolen property charges

Mar. 13—A 37-year-old defendant suspected of stealing about $8,400 from a Joplin attorney's office before being caught in possession of a large amount of cash, as well as keys, credit cards and checks belonging to other people, took a plea offer this week sending him to prison for four years.

Cleon L. Harris, of Carthage, entered an Alford plea Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court to counts of receiving stolen property and resisting arrest in a plea deal dismissing a more serious charge of trafficking in stolen identities.

An Alford plea admits no guilt but acknowledges the likelihood of a conviction if the case were to proceed to trial.

His plea deal called for concurrent terms of four years for the stolen property conviction and two years for resisting arrest, and Circuit Judge David Mouton accepted the plea arrangement and assessed Harris those sentences.

Joplin police were assisting Newton County deputies in attempting to contact Harris on May 7, 2021, in the parking lot of the Super 7 motel on Range Line Road to serve some outstanding warrants on him. Harris, who was sitting in the driver's seat of a car at the time, got out and fled on foot and could not be located and arrested until later.

But a search of the vehicle turned up $8,121, sets of keys to other people's residences and offices, and credit cards, checks, driver's licenses, a bill of sale, a loan agreement and an address card belonging to other people. One of the sets of keys belonged to the office of attorney Austin Knoblock, where $8,400 had been reported stolen the previous day.

In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered Harris to pay restitution of $3,075 in the case.