A Missouri man who robbed a restaurant then waited for police to arrive so he could return to jail and avoid homelessness has been sentenced to five years of probation.

Paul Borroni, 58, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree robbery of a Clayton restaurant last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Borroni had spent almost four decades in prison prior to the arrest and was struggling to settle on the outside.

Borroni had told police he threatened a restaurant employee to give him cash while pretending to have a gun for the sole purpose of returning to jail. He said he had been kicked out of a housing facility and a St. Louis homeless shelter didn’t have a bed for him.

Borroni, who has been awaiting trial in St. Louis County’s jail system for a year, has changed his mind since his arrest, according to his public defender, Jemia Steele.

For a while, “Paul was dead-set on” returning to prison, Steele said. “Then he realized he doesn’t need to go back to prison. That he can turn his life around.”

Judge Michael Jamison sentenced Borroni this week to 15 years in prison, but suspended the sentence and put him on probation. Borroni’s probation comes with the conditions that he must pursue job training and mental health and drug treatment to avoid being put back behinds bars. He also will be required to live in a Springfield shelter, the Victory Mission, which Steele said will “get him acclimated into society better.”

“Paul really didn’t have the right tools before,” Steele said. “He had been in prison so long.”

Borroni entered the prison system in 1979 at the age of 17 after he was convicted of fatally stabbing a high school student who refused to date him. He was released from prison in 2004, but returned two more times for parole violations.

In February 2018, he left prison having served 100 percent of his sentence, meaning that no parole officer would check in on him. He had been out of prison for 26 days when he pretended his finger was a gun hidden under his coat and robbed an employee at the Clayton restaurant, C.J. Muggs.

“There was some reason to believe he just wanted to go back to jail,” Judge Jamison said. “That was his whole life.”

The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office consulted with law enforcement and Borroni’s family before agreeing that probation was the appropriate sentence, according to a prosecutor’s spokeswoman.

Jamison said he attached stiff probation conditions to give Borroni a chance to rehabilitate.

“It’s the hope that everyone has the possibility of rehabilitating,” Jamison said.

More From AM 1050 KSIS