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Man convicted of looting after tornado says crime was an ‘honest mistake’

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MOORE, Okla. - A man accused of looting in the days after the Moore tornado is speaking out, saying he didn't mean to steal anything.

Harold McCrary, 44, was found guilty in a jury trial this month of disturbing a disaster area.

"I apologize to the homeowner. This was a honest mistake. It wasn't meant to insult him or any other tornado victims," said McCrary. "I honestly thought I was going over to her friend's house to help her remove their furniture. But it turned out to be someone else's furniture that was on the curb."

McCrary says his sister-in-law called him to come with his truck and trailer to pick up a couch and a couple of chairs that had been left on the curb of a house on S.W. 6th St., a heavily tornado-damaged area behind the Warren Theater.

McCrary says he didn't know that his sister-in-law did not personally know the owners.

He said, "I thought it was her friend's house. It was already sitting there. She had been there waiting about 30 to 40 minutes before I got there. We just loaded it up. I tied it down and left."

However, a neighbor was watching and called 911 and McCrary was pulled over and arrested.

Several people accused of looting in the days after the tornado have been sentenced.

McCrary was the only one to go to a jury trial.

After three days of the trial, the six-person jury found him guilty of disturbing a disaster area.

The assistant district attorney who prosecuted McCrary says the way the law's written, McCrary's intent didn't matter.

"As the law is written, he didn't have to intend to commit a crime, he just had to intend to take the property as he did," said Rachel Rogers, the Cleveland County assistant district attorney. "We had to take a hard-line stance on these types of crimes to protect the victims of the tornado."

McCrary said, "I wasn't intentionally trying to rip off or loot or anything like that."

Intentional or not, McCrary will have to pay a $2,000 fine.

He won't have to serve any jail time, so he's hoping now to move on with his life, leaving the black mark on his reputation behind.

He said, "It tarnishes my record because I'm the type of person who will help out anybody. I've always been that way."

The owner of the couch, Dana Heltcel, told Newschannel 4 that the couch was on the curb as trash.

She says she just wishes McCrary would have asked for it and they would have gladly let him have it.