GONZALES — A Gonzales-area man who admitted Wednesday to stealing a toolbox from a shed at Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant last summer was sentenced to 10 years in state prison under a deal with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid an even longer sentence.

Michael Duplessis, 34, who has past drug and petty crime convictions, has two prior burglary convictions since 2012: stealing a cellphone charger from a residence in October 2011 and participating in the theft of boat batteries from a shop in June 2014.

A maintenance employee at the Holy Rosary Church on July 13 saw an unknown man later identified as Duplessis who said he was looking for the food bank, prosecutors with the 23rd Judicial District said in a statement Thursday.

The worker directed Duplessis to the food bank only to find out later the toolbox was missing from a storage shed, prosecutors said.  

A relative later told Ascension Parish sheriff's deputies that Duplessis had the toolbox and had gotten it at the church, prosecutors said. Deputies arrested him four days later.   

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At the time of the July 13 burglary, Duplessis was on parole for his prior convictions, his attorney said.

Rusty Messer, Duplessis' defense attorney, said his client had no intention of stealing the toolbox when he entered the shed, a factor that could have helped his case at trial.

But Messer noted that had Duplessis gone to trial and been convicted, he could have faced a minimum of 20 years to as much as a life in prison, if prosecutors had also chosen to treat him as a habitual offender with his prior burglary convictions.

Duplessis, 43017 Weber City Road, Gonzales, entered the plea Wednesday before Judge Thomas Kliebert of the 23rd Judicial District Court. Kliebert gave the 10-year sentence recommended in the plea agreement.

Assistant District Attorney Phil Maples prosecuted the case.


Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.