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Three Robberies Yield 4 1/2 Years Prison

It wasn't that Kevin Blakeney wanted to rob two banks and a nutrition store, he said Friday in court. He had to feed his drug addiction.

"I was homeless and addicted to heroin," he said. "I was desperate and I needed heroin. I wish I didn't do it, and I wish I'd gotten help."

But that excuse just didn't wash with the court. "He was willing to go to the extreme of robbing two banks and one GNC store," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Catherine Zanga. "There are other ways of getting money than terrorizing people and committing such violent crimes."

In the end, Judge Jane Roush agreed and sentenced Blakeney, 30, of no fixed address, to four years and seven months in prison. He committed all three offenses in August and pleaded guilty to them, Dec. 2, in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

At that time, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jay Nanavati presented details of the crimes. He said that, on Aug. 6, around 4:30 p.m., Blakeney robbed a GNC store at 5645 Stone Road in Centreville.

"He walked behind the cash register and produced a knife," said Nanavati. He said Blakeney obtained some $200 from the register. "He told the clerk not to call the police and not to follow him," said Nanavati. "Then he cut the phone cable."

Next came First Virginia Bank on Saint Germain Drive in Centreville. On Aug. 11, at 12:10 p.m., Blakeney handed a note to a teller behind the counter. It read, "I have a knife, gimme the money. I don't want to hurt you." He fled after grabbing the cash.

Four days later, Aug. 15 around 1:45 p.m., he robbed the Chevy Chase Bank inside the Giant Food Store in the Colonnade Shopping Center. He gave a note to a teller, 21, of Centreville, again saying he had a knife and wanted all the money she had. He'd also written, "Don't make me hurt someone." He then took the money and ran.

By this time, police had a photo of First Virginia Bank's robbery suspect and, on Aug. 18, they arrested Blakeney at the Breezeway Motel in Fairfax. He came to Circuit Court on Friday for sentencing; but first, some witnesses spoke on his behalf.

Friend Erin McGregor said Blakeney's now prepared to make a change for the better. "I'm an ex-addict," she said. "You hit rock bottom and have to decide whether to keep using drugs and die, or change your life." She said Blakeney reached that point and is now ready to go on with his life.

SEVERAL FAMILY members and friends wrote letters on his behalf, and family friend Robert Gold, a 40-year, law-enforcement officer for the Air Force and Department of Defense — testified. He called Blakeney a good candidate for rehabilitation and not a hard-core criminal. "I believe his actions were a sign of him seeking help," he said. "The crime was not organized; there was no disguise — he wanted to get caught."

Blakeney testified, too, saying he wants drug treatment. He also said he needed the money to feed his three children. His attorney, public defender William Edwards, asked him why he thinks he's ready to turn his life around and fight his drug addiction.

"First, I no longer feel I have to rely on drugs," answered Blakeney. "Secondly, I love my kids and I don't want to be without them any longer than I have to." He has two daughters, 10 and 5, and a son, 8, who live with their mother, and he said he has a supportive family.

But prosecutor Zanga got him to admit that he's been using drugs since he was 13. Noting that the sentencing guidelines for his case ranged from four years, seven months to eight years, she asked Judge Roush to sentence him to the midpoint.

"What kind of a cry for help is this?" she asked. "Instead of calling for help from his supportive family, he terrorizes three women in the community. In the first [incident], he displayed a knife, and he also used [it] to cut the phone cable."

"HE MAY have been in a bad situation trying to feed his kids, but he put himself in that bad situation," continued Zanga. "For 17 years, he's been involved in drugs. He got in trouble with the juvenile [justice] system at age 14-15. He had a chance to get treatment then and didn't do it. Now that he's in jail, he says the drugs made him do it."

Edwards said this was his client's first foray into crime as an adult. "It's not the norm for someone to enter the adult criminal system charged with robbery," he said. "But it was his drug addiction that drove him into his criminal conduct."

While acknowledging that incarceration is appropriate in this case, he asked Roush for mercy. "I'm not asking Your Honor to sweep it under the carpet, but to sentence him to the low point of the guidelines. He confessed and accepted responsibility for his actions."

Edwards said Blakeney had a "good and moral" upbringing and has potential for the future. And Blakeney, himself, apologized. "I had no control over my addiction to heroin," he said. "But I've become dedicated to changing my life — not only for me, but for my children." Saying he could be a productive member of the community, he added, "I'm dedicated to being clean and a good, caring father."

BUT ROUSH had the final say. "You have a great deal of family support," she said. "But [it] can get you only so far, and these are very serious criminal offenses. Given that these are your first adult offenses and you accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty, sparing the witnesses from having to testify at a trial, I'm going to sentence you to the low end of the guidelines."

For each charge, she sentenced Blakeney to 10 years in prison, suspending five years, five months, and running the sentences concurrently. She also placed him on three years active probation upon his release and ordered him to receive substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations, make restitution for his crimes and do whatever his probation officer tells him to do.