Birdsong sentenced to prison in store heist

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A 31-year-old parolee was sent back to prison Monday for robbing a Columbia mini-mart with an air pistol in early August.

Matthew William Birdsong, a Sonora area transient, was in custody at Tuolumne County Superior Court for his sentencing where he received five years in prison. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole because it is considered a "strike offense" under the California's "Three Strikes" law.

He was also ordered to pay a restitution fine of $1,200.

Columbia resident Sanda Archer, whom Birdsong claimed was his mother, appeared at the hearing and urged Judge Eric L. DuTemple to consider substance abuse treatment rather than imprisonment.

"I think he deserves the chance to have something other than prison that makes him feel safe," Archer said during the hearing.

However, Archer was told she wouldn't be allowed to formally address the court when it was revealed that she was an acquaintance of the defendant.

After the hearing, Archer explained that she has known Birdsong since he was 11 years old. She said Birdsong's biological mother committed suicide when he was 14 years old and he was placed into foster care, which started him on a path that would end behind bars.

She also said it was her apartment that Birdsong fled to after robbing the R&L Mini Mart on Parrotts Ferry Road on Aug. 12. He had been visiting her for nine days prior to the incident, she said.

Archer says she was not home at the time the robbery took place, nor when the Tuolumne County SWAT Team apprehended Birdsong at her apartment shortly after, but now faces the threat of eviction.

"I'm a victim in this, too," she said.

Birdsong was released from prison last March for a 2009 domestic violence conviction. Prior to that, he was sentenced to prison in 2006 for violating his probation multiple times on a felony drug conviction from four years earlier.

After being released in March, Birdsong was placed on "post-release community supervision," which was created following the passing of the legislation AB 109. The bill implemented the state's "public safety realignment" that made counties responsible for monitoring "non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual" offenders recently released from prison who would have otherwise be supervised by state parole.

Birdsong was on the Tuolumne County Probation Department's GPS ankle monitoring at the time the crime was committed, but his electronic anklet had run out of batteries and probation officers were searching for him, officials said.

The Union Democrat
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