The Gang's All Fear

The Crips who raped a retarded girl sprang from a 'hood where too many kids aspire to the thug life

Auzenne's great-uncle sent a similar message, one far different than that of Oscar Tillman, in his letter to Martin:

"I refuse to lay claim to the well-worn cliché of being 'underprivileged or neglected' because TaRon comes from a God-fearing, hardworking and decent family that showered him with love," Lewis Johnson wrote. "Out of TaRon's immaturity at age 17, he made a poor decision. He is now almost 20. . . . We hope that you will understand that we do not argue the points of law, nor do we question the essence of justice."

A Turn of Events

The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
Paolo Vescia
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.

Judge Martin's courtroom was packed on the morning of September 22 for the sentencing of Daniel Robinson. Most were there to show their support for the slight 19-year-old, who faced a mandatory prison sentence ranging from a little more than five years up to 14 years.

As the hearing started, Martin indicated he was probably going to sentence Robinson to seven years, the same term he'd given TaRon Auzenne weeks before.

Rusty Stuart asked the judge if he could say something. Practically everyone present expected the detective to ask for the maximum sentence. Practically everyone was surprised.

"I've come to know quite a bit about each and every [defendant]," Stuart said. "I have not seen the level of violence with [Robinson] as I did with some of the other defendants."

He asked Martin to impose the lowest possible sentence, which -- with time already served -- would mean Robinson would have to serve less than two more years in prison instead of at least four.

Oscar Tillman sat in the spectator's gallery without expression. A few seats away, Robinson's mother, Veronica Young, wept and mouthed thanks to the detective.

It was a stunning role reversal.

For months, Stuart had privately berated prosecutor Joe Heileman for being too soft with the probation plea bargains. Now, it was Heileman, not the detective, who was asking Martin to be tougher with a convicted rapist.

Veronica Young told the judge that her son now was a different -- and better -- person than he'd been in February 1997, having earned his GED certificate and renewed an interest in God.

She submitted a letter to Martin, in which she wrote, "[My son] is not the composite created by the prosecution -- the gang-banging, one-dimensional sex-fiend [Heileman] described. The events of that night do not define my son as to who and what type of person he is. Nor is he today the person of that night."

Handcuffed and shackled, Robinson stood before Martin, and read his own letter. He apologized profusely for what he'd done at the Chipman Road house, saying he'd made a horrible, stupid mistake.

"I'm really anxious to live my life again," he told the judge.

Martin spoke extemporaneously moments before sentencing the young man.

"This was a brutal case," he said. "I sat and heard the evidence, so I know what happened. . . . In my mind, there is absolutely nothing in this case that would suggest that law enforcement officers nor Mr. Romley or his office, or anyone else, was motivated by the race of the defendants in the manner which they handled this case."

Martin noted that Robinson was the first defendant to have shown remorse, and "I think his statements are genuine."

Then, due largely to Detective Stuart's surprising recommendation, the judge ordered the lesser prison sentence of five-and-a-quarter years.

Robinson glanced over at Stuart and nodded.

See previous stories in the Hard Core series HERE

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: prubin@newtimes.com

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