Dirk John Thomas, Orange County's First Three Strikes Inmate, Ordered Freed

Orange County's first three-strikes defendant was kicked loose Friday. Over the "vigorous" objections of the Orange County District Attorney's office, Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey re-sentenced convicted thief Dirk John Thomas to six years in state prison for his third strike, but since the 51-year-old was initially sentenced to 25 years to life in 1996, he is to be released from the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad for time served.

State voters in 1994 passed the three-strikes law, which cleared the way for sentences of 25 years to life in state prison to any defendant found guilty with two previous convictions for serious or violent felonies. Voters amended Proposition 36 in November to have the third conviction also be a serious or violent felony. Since the amendment's passage, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) has received 73 petitions from inmates seeking re-sentencing hearings.

Thomas was the first to make it before a judge.

But Assistant District Attorney Ted Burnett, arguing that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, told Toohey Thomas' lengthy criminal history should keep him locked up, especially since he has committed the same crimes after being released from prison previously. And he confessed to police and probation officers in 1989 that he had committed more than 100 burglaries and thefts for which he had not been caught, according to Burnett.

The crime that last put Thomas away was an auto theft that a Huntington Beach police officer witnessed.

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