BUFFA GIVEN 21-YEAR SENTENCE

June 16, 2000 11:00 pm

GOLD BEACH Michael Salvatore Buffa celebrated his 36th birthday in Curry County Jail Thursday.

He remains behind bars this weekend waiting to find out where he will be spending the 21-year sentence handed him last week by Curry Circuit Judge Hugh Downer.

Buffa was convicted in a jury trial of 18 felony charges stemming from a rash of vehicle thefts and burglaries in the Curry County and Grants Pass areas.

Detective John Bishop, who headed up the investigation in the Brookings area, said Buffa tried throughout the investigation to involve other people in the case, including his longtime girlfriend.

Trouble is, we couldnt uncover any evidence to prove anybody else had anything more than a small part in it, Bishop said.

Bishop said Buffa caused a scene during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Judge Downer had accepted the verdict of the jury and asked Buffa if he had anything to say before he read the sentence, Bishop said.

Buffa didnt say anything, so the judge started to discuss the findings of the jury. Buffa started interrupting and got more and more excited, Bishop said.

I thought for a minute we were going to have to jump on him and hold him down.

Finally, Bishop said, Buffa told the judge, You dont give a (obscenity) about me, so (obscenity) you!

And this was before the judge handed down the sentence, Bishop said.

The jury found Buffa guilty of one count of second degree criminal mischief, two counts of first degree criminal mischief, nine counts of first degree theft, two counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, one count of first degree burglary and three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He was sentenced to a total of 256 months in prison. He is not eligible for any special programs. Buffa previously served a prison term in California, the last portion of it at Pelican Bay State Prison.

He was originally charged with vehicle homicide in the death of Brookings contractor Neil Cartwright in Hollister, Calif., but was released after his friend, Tracey Billups, admitted she was steering the motorcycle with Buffa sitting behind her. Billups served a term in prison for the crime.

On March 2, security agents at the Brookings Fred Meyer apprehended Buffa shoplifting. Buffa was taken into custody by Sheriffs Lt. Allen Boice who was off-duty at the time.

Buffa was charged with shoplifting and booked into the Curry County Jail. He was on probation on a domestic violence charge, so he was held in jail without bail.

Items found in his possession at the time of his arrest made him the focal point of the investigation into the recent auto thefts and burglaries.

Law enforcement officers from California, Grants Pass, and Curry County had been investigating a rash of vehicle thefts of a similar nature for almost a year.

Investigators recovered items from the auto thefts from Lee Musser, Fred Reiling and Ben Bower, and the James Drake, Connie Wilson and Ken Caylor home burglaries.

Bishop said officers believe Buffa has been part of scores of burglaries and thefts in the area since December 1999.

Its evident he has been getting property and selling it as fast as he could for controlled substances and money,Bishop said.

A guard at Curry County Jail who previously worked for the state prison system said Buffa will probably be sent to the Oregon Correction Center for a while before being sent to a high security prison.