Portia Lester, 23, of Burien has been in the Thurston County Jail since July 17, when Olympia police arrested her and two others during a traffic stop on Interstate 5.
The two other suspects’ criminal cases have yet to be adjudicated. The stop slowed I-5 traffic to a halt.
Lester, along with Brizjette Williams, 23, and Alexandra Roche, 24, both of Seattle, were arrested after employees at a Buckle store called 911 to report a shoplifting in progress, court papers state. The employees followed the trio out of the mall to get their license plate number and a vehicle description.
Lester’s crime is a felony because she tried to bypass the store’s anti-theft alarm system with what is known in retail as a booster bag, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Powers said.
Lester pleaded guilty under an Alford plea, under which she doesn’t admit guilt but concedes she likely would have been convicted had the case gone to trial. It is considered a conviction and carries the same penalties as a guilty plea. Powers recommended Lester’s 45-day jail sentence pursuant to her plea.
Lester has been banned from the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood because of a prior conviction, court records state.
She has a lengthy criminal record, including multiple juvenile arrests for robbery, theft and assault out of King County, court records state. Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor said her record includes four felony convictions in juvenile court and one adult conviction for a gross misdemeanor.
Lester’s attorney, John Hansen, said in court that his client was merely “along for the ride” with the two other defendants. Hansen added that from reviewing the Buckle store’s video surveillance footage, it is apparent that Lester did not go into any of the changing rooms or steal any clothing. Hansen said Lester is a student at a technical college and a mother who is “anxious to take care of these matters and head back to King County.”
Lester will get credit for time served at the jail so far, plus any good time she may have accrued, Tabor said in court.