Alleged moto-cart thief jailed again

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

A 77-year-old man who allegedly stole a motorized shopping cart from a Sonora grocery store last month failed to appear in court Wednesday on a felony auto theft charge.

John Charles Mathews, of Columbia, was scheduled to be arraigned in Tuolumne County Superior Court but was being held in Calaveras County Jail at the time of the hearing.

Mathews was booked Monday afternoon on warrants for driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge. His bail is set at $60,000.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office arrested Mathews after receiving a report of an intoxicated person riding an electric cart at a store on Spangler Lane in Copperopolis, Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt said.

Mathews was not booked on a public intoxication charge, and the incident report did not mention an intoxication level, Hewitt said.

Mathews had been out of custody from Tuolumne County Jail since March 1, when the court released him on his own recognizance.

When he didn't appear for arraignment Wednesday, Judge Eleanor Provost issued a warrant for his arrest, revoking his recognizance release and setting bail at $20,000.

District Attorney Mike Knowles could not definitively say what will happen next without knowing more details about Mathews' cases. He suspected, however, the Tuolumne County warrant will act as a hold on Mathews, keeping him in Calaveras County Jail until he is transported back to Tuolumne County Jail.

Mathews was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property about 1 a.m. on Feb. 27. He since has been charged by the District Attorney's Office with felony auto theft.

A Sonora police officer saw Mathews driving a Safeway cart west on Mono Way and contacted him on the 800 block of the street, about 0.1 mile from the Sanguinetti Road store, police said.

Mathews was apparently trying to drive the cart to his home on the 11400 block of Forest Park Drive, about six miles away, Stinson said.

Mathews told the officer that Safeway had given him the cart - valued at $1,000 - because he has trouble walking, according to police.

The officer contacted a Safeway representative who said the store had not given Mathews the cart and did not realize it had been taken, police said.

The cart has since been returned to the store, according to police.

The Union Democrat
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