When a prolific burglar broke into the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research — just north of the District — he didn’t find much worth taking. An electronic frame that displayed digital pictures. Six dollars’ worth of coins. He grabbed the items and dashed out.
What he left behind had — for the police at least — a whole lot of value: Two pages of D.C. criminal court records, which the burglar had picked up a day or two earlier, which he had been carrying around for some reason, and which listed his full name: Andre A. Henry.
“Obviously, that’s a clue,” prosecutor Stephen Chaikin said in a Montgomery County courtroom in Rockville on Wednesday, moments before Circuit Court Judge Andrew L. Sonner sentenced Henry to 18 years in prison.
Detectives suspected Henry in dozens of break-ins at offices in Silver Spring, Rockville and Bethesda from August 2012 to April 2013, according to court records. A grand jury indicted Henry in eight of those burglaries. He pleaded guilty to three in an agreement with prosecutors that led to the 18-year sentence.
“This was a crime wave,” Chaikin said.
The evidence implicating Henry went beyond the court papers found at the federal office in Silver Spring. There were fingerprints, eyewitness recollections and surveillance video. But the records — which spelled out charges against Henry in the District and were found folded near a pried-open door, as if they’d fallen out of his pocket — helped detectives obtain a warrant to search Henry’s home in the District, according to a copy of the warrant. And inside the home, detectives found more clues, including the digital picture frame.
Henry was on probation for a burglary conviction in Northern Virginia while he was breaking into the Montgomery offices. He expressed regret in court Wednesday.
“I’d like to apologize to the victims that I took items from,” he said softly. “I’m not just saying that because I got caught. I really mean it.”
He added: “It’s sad that it took all this time for me to really open my eyes and see how important my freedom is.”
But the judge said Henry was like other burglars who commit crime after crime. “You just don’t seem to change your way,” Sonner said. “Maybe because it’s so easy. I don’t know. But in order to protect the public, we really have to warehouse you and keep you locked up.”