'Freeway Jimmy' gets 10-year prison term for copper theft

James Taylor (right)
James Taylor (right)
Jazmin Taylor
Jazmin Taylor
Don Pacarro
Don Pacarro

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - He was the leader of a theft ring that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in copper wiring from Oahu freeways. On Thursday, an emotional James Taylor received his punishment.

Unlike the Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, this James Taylor made money -- and a lot of it -- by turning in stolen copper to metal recyclers. He's now singing the blues, after a judge hands down a 10-year prison term.

He's known as Freeway Jimmy, the leader of a gang of thieves that yanked copper wiring out of electrical boxes near light poles, leaving large sections of the H-1 and H-2 freeways in the dark.

"He does have a good heart and he has a good person inside," Jazmin Taylor, defendant's niece, said through tears. "The only thing is that made him, I could say, do all this stuff is a really bad drug habit."

James Taylor and nine others were named in a 131-count indictment last December. Prosecutors say the group made nearly $145,000 by selling more than 72,000 lbs. of copper to scrap dealers.

"They went out, stole the copper, brought it back to the house," Don Pacarro, deputy prosecutor, said. "They had individuals stripping the copper and also individuals turning it in."

State transportation officials put the cost of repairing the damage and replacing the wiring at about $2 million.

"It's just too, too much for these individuals who are going to prison to pay back," Pacarro said.

"I'd just like to apologize to the state and to my family that I embarrassed," the convicted copper thief said while choking back tears. "I love them very much and that's all."

The judge sentences Taylor to 10 years in prison for criminal conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering.

"Even though he did a whole lot of bad and stole a whole lot of money, it's just because of a really, really, bad, bad habit," Jazmin Taylor said.

Prosecutors say nine of the 10 defendants have taken responsibility. One is awaiting trial.