SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A parolee with a long criminal record pleaded guilty Monday to robbery, false imprisonment and other count stemming from a home-invasion attack on former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis and a separate robbery of a phone store.
Harvey Henry Duson faces between 27 years to life behind bars on the low end to a maximum 250 years to life when he is sentenced Dec. 12 by Judge Eugenia Eyherabide.
Duson -- who has 26 prior felony "strikes" -- including robbery and false imprisonment convictions from 1990 and 1993 -- pleaded guilty to all 11 counts against him on the day his case was to go to trial.
Defense attorney Stephen Cline said Duson, 46, admitted all the charges because "it was ideally the right thing to do for him." Cline said Duson knows he will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
"The overwhelming state of the evidence, the number of strike priors, the number of charges he faced here ... in the end it was about make the right decision for once and deciding to take his chances with the judge and not put the victims through having to testify," Cline told reporters outside court. "Taking this step has to have some value."
Mathis testified during a preliminary hearing in May that he was attacked about 9 p.m. last Jan. 11 by two men as he got out of his car in his garage at his University City home.
"They were yelling, `Where's the cash?"', Mathis recalled.
Mathis -- who said he was legally carrying a concealed firearm because of two previous break-ins at his home -- testified that he struggled with one of his attackers over the gun, but couldn't get a clean shot at the assailant.
Mathis, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System board, said he fired two quick shots into the air in hopes neighbors might hear and call 911.
He said he gave up the fight over his gun when one of the attackers hit him hard in the head, with what he thought was the butt of another gun.
Mathis said he was ordered to strip down to his underwear and taken at gunpoint to open a safe in a back bedroom. The witness said his wife and a neighbor were inside.
Mathis said he struggled to open the walk-in safe and his assailant grew anxious.
"He said, 'Hurry up or I'll shoot,"' and also threatened to "torch the place," Mathis testified.
Mathis said he thought the intruders were after his gun collection and was surprised to learn they wanted cash, which he didn't keep in the safe.
He said the intruders put him, his wife and neighbor into a bathroom and left, but not before setting fire to some clothes in the kitchen and to one of the cars in the garage.
The victim said the attack happened the day before his 79th birthday.
"Actually, it's the best birthday I've ever had," Mathis told prosecutor Martin Doyle. "I lived to see it."
Duson -- who was released from state prison last year after serving half of a 32-year sentence for an armed robbery in Lemon Grove -- was arrested in Arizona in February following a high-speed pursuit, a day after he eluded California law enforcement.
Witnesses testified that DNA found on Mathis' car and other items in the home matched Duson's DNA.
The defendant also pleaded guilty to robbing two sales representatives at a Sprint phone store on Rosecrans Street two months before the break-in at the Mathis home.
DNA taken from a black sock used to tie up the victims in the Sprint store robbery also came back to Duson, said Doyle said.
The second suspect in the attack on Mathis is still at large, Doyle said.