Entries in Sentence (13)


Sentences Handed Down in Ohio Bridge Bomb Plot

Hemera/Thinkstock(AKRON, Ohio) -- Three men convicted of a plot to blow up an Ohio bridge last spring received stiff prison sentences Tuesday in an Akron courtroom.

Douglas Wright, the admitted ring leader who goes by the name of "Cyco," got an 11-year sentence, while co-conspirators Brandon "Skabby" Baxter and Connor Stevens will spend nine and eight years behind bars, respectively.

The anarchists and two other men had planned to destroy the four-lane Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge spanning the Cuyahoga Valley National Park by detonating improvised devices containing C-4 explosives.

However, their plot was foiled by undercover federal agents and they were taken into custody on April 30.  All pleaded guilty last September to charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce.

One of the other two defendants will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oklahoma Judge Sentences Teen to Church for 10 Years

Comstock/Thinkstock(MUSKOGEE, Okla.) -- Anybody who knows Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman probably yawned at the news that he’d sentenced a teen offender to attend church as part of his probation arrangement, and that the judge’s pastor was in the courtroom at the time.

Not only had he handed down such a sentence before, but he’d required one man to bring the church program back with him when he reported to court.

“The Lord works in many ways,” Norman, 69, told ABC News Friday. “I’ve done a little bit of this kind of thing before, but never on such a serious charge.”

Norman sentenced Tyler Alred, 17, Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August for killing friend and passenger John Luke Dum in a car crash.

Dum died on impact in December after Alred crashed his Chevrolet pickup truck, ejecting Dum. Alred was 16 at the time of the crash and had been drinking prior to the deadly accident.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued a Breathalyzer at the time, and although Alred was under the state’s legal alcohol limit, he had been drinking underage.

The judge could have sent Alred to jail but, instead, taking into account his clean criminal and school records, sentenced him to wear a drug and alcohol bracelet, participate in counseling groups and attend a church of his choosing – weekly. He must also graduate from high school.

To avoid jail time, Norman gave Alred a maximum 10-year deferred sentence.

He’d never passed down the church-attendance requirement for someone as young as Alred,  said Norman, who has worked as a district Judge in Muskogee for 14 years.

“It’s not going to be automatic, I guarantee you,”  Norman said of the church sentence on future manslaughter charges. “There are a lot of people who say I can’t do what I did. They’re telling me I can’t legally sentence someone to church.”

Alred’s lawyer is not among the critics. “I usually represent outlaws and criminals,” defense attorney Donn Baker told the Muskogee Phoenix. “This is a kid that made a mistake. I think he’s worth saving.”

In the courtroom this week, an emotional scene between the victim’s family and Alred played out after statements from Dum’s mother, father and two sisters were read during the sentencing. Dum’s father and Alred stood up in court, turned toward each other and embraced one another.

“At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church” to help set him on the right path, Norman, a member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee, said. “There’s nothing I can do to make this up to the family."

“I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.”

After completing the rest of the requirements in his sentence, Alred will have the charge removed from his record.

“Only time will tell if we’ve saved Tyler Alred’s life,” the judge said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hazing Death Plea Gets Leniency, But Not from Victim's Mom

Champion Family Photo(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The first of a dozen defendants charged in the hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion appears to have gotten off easy with the judge Monday, but not with Champion's mother.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's famed "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after a football game.

Champion's parents sat steely-eyed and stared straight ahead as the judge explained his reasoning for sentencing Brian Jones, 24, to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Moments earlier, the judge made an exception and allowed Champion's mother Pamela Champion to directly and sternly address Jones. She explained her thought process when deciding what to say to him.

"I thought about expressing the agony and pain that my family has gone through because of you. I thought of expressing the torment I go through each and every day knowing that I will never see Robert because of you," she said. "I even thought of expressing my anger, my disappointment in all the deceitful lies, the corruption, the ruthlessness, the mishandling of my son's murder."

In the end, she said, she decided to pose a series of questions to Jones. She asked him how long he could hide the truth, how he could live with the lie and what punishment he deserved.

"The judge had stated that your part in Robert's death was really minimal, but you and I know that's not true," she said. "It will always be there haunting you. We both know that."

Champion's father Robert Champion also addressed the court, speaking with "a lot of mixed emotions and a heavy heart."

"This is an opportunity that we can take to tell the world that we are not going to accept hazing. It's a thing of the past and it starts now with holding these people responsible for what they did," he said. "It's been going on too long and this is time to make a statement."

Jones' mother expressed her "deepest" and "sincerest" sympathy to the Champion family, but pleaded with the judge to show mercy to her son who told her that he was not involved in Champion's death.

"I've taught Brian to talk to me and tell me the truth," Jacquelin Jones said. "I'm convinced that my son told me the truth."

Jones was the last to tearfully address the court.

"I stand before you today still in shock, but with a sound mind and humble heart," he sniffed. "I just want the world to know that I'm sorry for the death of your son Robert. I truly am. No words or anything I could do would be sufficient enough to express how regretful I am of the loss of Robert."

He said the band's behavior was "completely inexcusable" and that the events of the night "went further than anyone imagined, wanted or thought." Jones said his "heart continues to ache at the thought of what happened."

Jones said he did not know Champion, but had heard of his high character, academic talents and precise marching skills. Through tears, he called Champion a "role model for excellence."

Jones was charged with a third-degree felony. He entered a no-contest plea on Oct. 9 after originally pleading not guilty.

Judge Marc Lubet called the sentencing an "extremely difficult situation" and said he had to look at Jones in terms of a ladder of culpability and prosecutors did not have any evidence that Jones hit or hurt Champion. Lubet quoted Abraham Lincoln before announcing the sentence, saying, "Mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

"I could destroy his life right this minute, but, once again, based on all the facts of this case, I think the quote from Abraham Lincoln is very, very pertinent," Lubet said. "I think you're worth saving."

The judge even commended Jones for being the first defendant to come forward and "take some responsibility."

In addition to the probation and community service, Jones was ordered to have no contact with the Champion family unless they were to initiate it and no contact with any of the other defendants.

Thirteen FAMU band members have been charged in relation to Champion's death. Eleven of the band members face felony hazing charges and the other two face misdemeanor hazing charges. The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

In May, over 2,000 pages of evidence from the investigation into Champion's death were released by the Florida District Attorney's Office, which delivered a blow-by-blow of the events from the night of Robert Champion's death.

Champion endured a lethal pummeling down the aisle of a pitch-black bus that rocked from the force of the violence inside, according to the documents.

Champion struggled, with a female band member holding him back to prolong the punishment, through a gauntlet of band mates who used their fists, feet, straps and sticks to pound him into unconsciousness.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Airline Employee Sentenced to Life for Role in Drug-Smuggling Ring

United States Attorney's Office(NEW YORK) -- A former American Airlines baggage handler was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for his role in leading a vast, multi-million dollar drug-smuggling ring known as the "Bourne Organization" and using the airline as his "personal narcotics shuttle service," federal officials said.

The Department of Justice said that Victor Bourne, a Barbadian national, had been convicted of leading a group that smuggled as much as 150 kilograms of cocaine from the Caribbean through New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport over nearly 10 years.

In the far-reaching scheme, federal officials said the Bourne Organization would pay off airline crew chiefs to make sure its own crooked baggage handlers oversaw certain shipments.  On the flights, the drugs were hidden behind panels in the cargo holds, in the ceiling and wing assembly, in the aircraft's avionics and in "other vital equipment compartments," the Department of Justice said.  To get the drugs out of the airport, employees would hide them in their clothing and then deliver the narcotics to Bourne.

Bourne was arrested in 2009 and the investigation into the organization led to the conviction of 19 other airline employees who were in on the scheme, the seizure of nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana and the forfeiture of $6.9 million.

"Using his insider status, Bourne turned American Airlines into his personal narcotics shuttle service," U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch said in a press release, "running a criminal organization that ignored passenger safety and security in pursuit of their greater goal -- enriching Victor Bourne."

Bourne was brought down at trial by six witnesses, all former American Airline employees, who had pled guilty to their own narcotics trafficking charges.

American Airlines declined to comment for this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Mom Who Glued Daughter's Hands to Wall Gets 99 Years in Prison

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- The Texas mom who beat her two-year-old daughter and glued her hands to a wall was sentenced Friday to 99 years in prison.

Judge Larry Mitchell gave the life sentence to a tearful Elizabeth Escalona, 23, because "you savagely beat your child to the edge of death."

The sentence came down after five days of painful testimony in the case, as prosecutors showed pictures of the beaten toddler to Escalona and asked her if she was a "monster."

"A monster did this," prosecutor Eren Price told Escalona, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA.

Escalona, who had pleaded guilty in July, nodded and replied, "Yes."


The attack on the child came after Escalona became frustrated with potty training. Testimony from the girl's siblings revealed that Escalona kicked the girl in the stomach and hit her with a milk jug before gluing her hands to the wall. The girl was hospitalized in a coma from the beating and some skin had been torn off her hands, doctors testified.

The mother of five pleaded for leniency during her sentencing hearing, begging the judge to consider that she had been sexually abused as a child. But cross-examination by the prosecutors pointed out that Escalona was a consistently abusive mother who did drugs and beat her children.

Escalona admitted to using drugs since the age of 13, smoking marijuana while she was pregnant, and doing drugs and drinking while out on bond for a prior felony charge.

The prosecution projected the words "LIAR" and "MONSTER" on a screen above Escalona's head during cross-examination.

Escalona said she did not clearly remember the beating she gave to her daughter in 2011 that left the toddler hospitalized. She could not recall where she got glue and had no idea why she glued her child's hands to the wall.

Escalona's family cried out as Mitchell announced the sentence, later hanging their heads in their laps and crying, according to the Dallas Morning News. Escalona showed little emotion.

Escalona will be eligible for parole in 30 years. Her children are now in the custody of their grandmother, Oefelia Escalona.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jerry Sandusky Sentenced to 30 to 60 Years in Prison

Patrick Smith/Getty Images(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 children after a Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in jail.

"I'm not going to sentence you to centuries," Judge John Cleland said at the sentencing hearing.  "It makes no sense for a 68-year-old man.  This sentence will put you in prison for the rest of your life."

Sandusky, 68, would be 98 at his earliest possible release date. 

Cleland also determined that Sandusky would be classified as a sexually violent predator, mandating that he register as a sex offender if he is ever released from prison.

"The ultimate tragedy of this situation is that... you have continued to conceal the very vices that have led to your downfall," Cleland said before handing down the sentence.  "In my view that makes you dangerous.  You abused the trust of those who trusted you.  These are not crimes against strangers, they are much worse."

"The crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but your assault to the safety and well-being of the community in which we all live," the judge added.


The sentence was handed down by Cleland in Bellefonte, Pa. after tearful testimony from both Sandusky and his victims.

Sandusky's victims recounted the horror inflicted on them by the former Penn State football defensive coordinator.  Speakers included one victim's mother, who said her son had twice attempted suicide because of the abuse.

"For four years, I believed you were helping my son but instead you were molesting him," the mother of Victim 9 wrote in a statement.  "He was losing weight, couldn't sleep.  I blame myself and still do.  I have had to endure two attempts from my son on his own life, all because of you and what you did to my son."

"Jerry Sandusky lured me into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and then forcibly had me touch him," said the man identified as Victim 5.  "I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body.  I continue to be haunted by the incident.  [I have] anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, and embarrassment and guilt."

The statements came just ahead of Sandusky's own tearful statement to the court, in which he denied that he ever engaged in "disgusting acts."  He also described his time in jail, staring at cement walls, imagining the fun times he spent with the children of his charity -- the Second Mile -- through which he met all of his victims.

"A chill goes up my spine and my eyes fill up again.  It doesn't matter what you look at, it's what you see.  When I look at those walls again, I see light, visits from family and friends," Sandusky said on the stand, clad in a red jumpsuit and looking noticeably thinner and more gaunt than during his trial.  "I see me throwing hundreds of kids in the air, water balloon battles, a dog licking childrens' faces."

Sandusky said in his statement that he has spent his time in jail meditating, writing, exercising and reading books about persecution and struggle.  He said he has faced "outbursts by troubled inmates" and "special inmates who have smiled at me."

"Somehow, someway, something good will come out of this.  These are people I cared about, still do.  I used to think of ways to praise them, to help them have fun," he said.

"To my loved ones I want to say, the most difficult part is the pain of separation.  Some of the labeling hurts but they don't compare to the pain of their absence," Sandusky added.

Sandusky's victims said they were outraged at Sandusky's continued claims of innocence.

"You can chose to be in denial about everything you have done, [but] you are only fooling yourself," said the man identified as Victim 6.  "It is time to stop coming up with excuses for your behavior.  If you admit your guilt to God, he will forgive you.  If you don't, you won't be able to receive forgiveness."

"You took something from him that can never be replaced," the statement from Victim 9's mother read.  "Sorry will never be enough.  There is no punishment sufficient for you.  When you admit your wrongdoing, maybe, maybe you will be forgiven."

In a statement released after the sentencing, Penn State President Rodney Erickson declared, "Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse. While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Sentenced to 99 Years

Hemera/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Authorities in Texas are searching for a convicted rapist who vanished in the middle of his trial and has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Eric McGowen, 20, was not in court for his conviction or for his sentence on Thursday. The jury decided that he was guilty of the aggravated sexual assault after less than 15 minutes of deliberations. McGowen was then sentenced to 99 years in prison.

McGowen was out of jail on bond during the trial. He was in court for the victim's tearful testimony on Wednesday, but failed to return from a court break soon after. Since he was out on bond, he did not have an official accompanying him during the break.

Wednesday was the first day of trial. Judge Mark Morefield issued an arrest warrant for him and increased the bond from $35,000 to $250,000. Testimony continued without him.

A Liberty County Court official told ABC News Friday that McGowen is still on the lam.

In addition to his conviction and sentence, he has been hit with a $10,000 fine, according to ABC News' Houston affiliate KTRK.

Eric McGowen was one of 14 adults accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Texas girl. McGowen and 13 other adults are accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the young girl over a three-month period in 2010. Six juvenile suspects have also been charged.

McGowen was the first defendant to face trial.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amy Senser Sentenced to 41 Months in Hit-and-Run Death

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser, claimed to be deeply remorseful after receiving her 41-month prison sentence for killing Anousone Phanthavong in a hit-and-run accident last year.

"I'm sorry...I hope you can believe me.  I never saw your son that night, and if I had, I would have stopped to help him," Senser, 45, told Phanthavong's family at her sentencing Monday.

Senser hugged Phanthavong's mother and told her that she tattooed her late son's name on her wrist.

"We felt a relief to [hear her] actually speak for herself and just hear her apology," said the victim's niece, Cindy Phanthavong.

"All that they've wanted in this criminal proceeding was for justice to be served and they're thankful that that was accomplished," said James Ballentine, attorney for the Phanthavong family.

Senser testified in May that she knew she had hit something on the night of August 23, but said she believed it was a pothole or construction cone.  She said she didn't see 38-year-old Phanthavong.

When asked to describe what the feeling of the impact was like, Senser said, "I've never been in an accident so I wasn't quite sure if I'd hit a pothole or one of those construction signs."

Phanthavong, a restaurant cook, was fatally struck by Senser's sport utility vehicle as he refueled his stalled car on an Interstate 94 ramp in Minneapolis.

The highly charged case was taxing on the Senser family as it pitted stepdaughter against stepmother.

Senser's stepdaughter, 28-year-old Brittani Senser, said she coaxed her stepmother to admit her role in the accident more than a week after the crash.  Brittani Senser, an aspiring pop singer, testified that she was angry after media reports linked her to the accident.

Brittani Senser discussed her role in the situation on ABC's Good Morning America Tuesday.

"I don't feel like I forced her," she said.  "I was under the impression that my family was in complete compliance with authorities.  When the news broke and there wasn't a driver identified [there was] speculation that it could have been any of us.  I told them, because I knew … that she had to take responsibilities for what she'd done."

Brittani Senser also said that she is unsure how truthful her stepmother has been throughout the trial.

"I [do] believe that she is remorseful," she told Robin Roberts on GMA.  "But I kind of believe the judge.  It's hard to believe that you didn't know you hit something.  I don't know if she knew she'd hit a person.  It's hard to believe from the evidence that she didn't know she hit something."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Grandpa Sentenced to 27 Months for Abusing Grandkids on Hike

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A grandfather who was convicted of child abuse after forcing his three grandsons on a hike through the Grand Canyon was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in prison, the minimum punishment possible.

Prosecutors said Christopher Carlson, 45, of Indianapolis refused to give food and water to his three grandsons, Kevin, 12, Micah, 9, and Kameron, 8, during two separate hikes in August 2011.

In February, a jury found Carlson guilty on three of the six child abuse charges he faced.

Court documents obtained by the Phoenix New Times revealed more specific details and testimony from the boys about the abuse they suffered from Carlson.

After Carlson and the kids made a 7.5-mile trail on Aug. 15, park rangers confronted Carlson about complaints from other hikers that had seen the boys along the trail earlier that day.  Carlson was spotted with the boys again on Aug. 28, but this time park rangers separated the boys from Carlson and asked them what happened.

According to ABC News affiliate RTV6 in Indianapolis, the boys told investigators that Carlson hit, choked, pinched, whipped, pushed and squeezed them constantly throughout their cross country trip that was supposed to end at Disneyland.  The boys also said they were told to lie to anyone, including park rangers, about what Carlson had done to them.

The boys were later interviewed and more disturbing and specific accusations came forward about the treatment their grandfather had subjected them to. The interviews revealed that Carlson had forced them to drink water from the Colorado River, which caused the boys to throw up multiple times, as well as kicked them repeatedly with steel-toed boots and threw them into cactuses.

Carlson told the investigators that he was trying to toughen up the boys.  He was taken into custody after National Park employees said he forced the boys to go on a hike in temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees.  A man died from dehydration earlier that same day on a nearby trail close to where Carlson and the boys were hiking.

During the trial, Micah testified that the worst part of the trip was throwing up and excruciating pain from the blisters on the bottom of his feet, which were so bad that by the end of the second hike they had turned into ulcers.  He had to undergo treatment that is usually used for burn victims, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, Carlson's daughter, Tara Danaher, the boys' mother, said on her father's behalf, "My father disciplined my children.  In this particular case, yes, I believe he disciplined them, but I don't think he abused them."

Danaher said one of her children wrote a letter asking the judge overseeing the case to give Carlson a reduced sentence.

The letter read, "Dear judge, I would like Papa to be in jail for only one more month, it would be nice if you could let that happen."

Danaher said she thought that her father, who has been behind bars since last August, needed to see a therapist, but didn't need to be imprisoned any longer.

"At the end of the day, no matter what happened out there, I had no part of it.  I didn't do anything.  I didn't encourage any of it, and me and my children are being forced to suffer consequences for something we didn't do," she said.

Danaher, who is only allowed to see her children for seven supervised hours a week, said the Indiana Department of Child Services is to blame for needlessly keeping her from her children.

"My children are lost in this.  They don't understand what's going on or what's taking place," Danaher said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


All Three 'Dougherty Gang' Siblings Sentenced to Prison Time

ABC News(DENVER) -- The three "Dougherty gang" siblings, who went on a multi-state crime spree in 2011, were sentenced to prison Monday in Colorado. Among them, they will serve 74 years behind bars.

Ryan Dougherty, 22, the last to be sentenced, was given 18 years in prison. He had faced a maximum of 20 years after pleading guilty to five counts of menacing.

Earlier Monday, his sister, Lee Grace Dougherty, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Dylan Dougherty, 27, received a 32-year sentence.

Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, had faced a maximum of 28 years for pleading guilty to first-degree assault and two counts of menacing.

Dylan Dougherty was the only one of the three to be given the maximum sentence. He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault, according to ABC News Denver affiliate KMGH. The siblings' crimes included a Colorado shootout with police and a daring bank robbery in Georgia.

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"Contrary to a lot of people's beliefs, I never intended to...I never tried to...I never wanted to hurt anybody," an emotional Dylan Dougherty told the Huerfano County judge.

"It is true that I acted out of desperation and I am sorry for the choices that I made," he said tearfully. "I don't know really what things differently I would have done, but I truly am sorry to anyone who was involved."

He apologized to police and to bystanders who could have been hurt, and said that his actions were "not to my character."

Officials in Georgia are waiting for the siblings to be extradited for charges related to the bank robbery. After Monday's sentencing in Colorado, they are expected to be transported to Albany, Ga., by the U.S. Marshals Service for a hearing May 15.

The three were allegedly driving as fast as 100 miles per hour on Aug. 2 when a Zephyrhills, Fla., police officer tried to pull them over. They fired 20 shots at the officer and escaped when one of the bullets hit the police car's tire. The officer was not injured. Later that day, the Dougherty gang allegedly robbed a Valdosta, Ga., bank while wearing masks and firing rounds at the ceiling from an AK-47 rifle.

Police caught up with the three on Aug. 10, 2011 in Colorado after receiving a tip that they had been spotted buying camping equipment. After a 20-mile chase down a Colorado Interstate, the Doughertys' car flipped over and landed on top of a guard rail.

The siblings share a lengthy criminal history that included 20 felonies among them before the additional 70 charges they racked up from their 2011 crime spree. Their previous charges range from drug possession to battery and burglary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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