Before Willie Lee Jackson III was sentenced last week to eight years in prison for robbing a Springfield doughnut store, his attorney said the gun he'd displayed that evening wasn't really a deadly weapon.
"[It] was an air-powered, pellet gun that he bought at Wal-Mart," said defense attorney Kathleen Brown. Although, she admitted, it "resembled a 9 mm [handgun]."
BUT FOR all the store clerk knew, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jay Nanavati, that weapon was real. "She was shown a gun," he said. "One can reasonably infer she felt faced with the ending of her life."
And when the dust cleared, Jackson, 24, of 4104 Monument Court, No. 303, in Fair Oaks, left Fairfax County Circuit Court in handcuffs, en route to a long time behind bars.
The incident occurred Sept. 7, 2003 at the Dunkin' Donuts at 6699-C Frontier Drive in Springfield. Police Det. Paul Alexander explained what happened in an Oct. 5 affidavit for a warrant to search Jackson's home for the handgun used and the clothing worn by the robber during the crime.
He wrote that the suspect was a black male who was wearing gray sweatpants, a white T-shirt and a black "dew rag" while stealing the business' dough.
"Upon entering the store and going to the front counter, the suspect stated, 'You know what to do,'" wrote the detective. "And at the same time, [he] lifted up his T-shirt, displaying the grip of a handgun."
But the female clerk was too scared to comply with the robber's demands so, wrote Alexander, "The suspect tried to gain entry behind the counter, but the gate was locked. [He] then walked back to the front of the counter and again demanded the victim give him the money."
THIS TIME, she opened the cash register, placed its contents on the counter and the robber grabbed it. He then told her to lie on the floor and not move. When she did, he fled with the cash — but the incident was recorded by a closed-circuit TV security system.
The detective stated that a confidential informant identified Jackson as the robber. This person was then directed by police to phone Jackson. Alexander wrote that, when the informant told Jackson his picture was on a wanted poster at the jail, Jackson replied, "You got to really know me to know who it is."
However, after police arrested and interviewed him, Oct. 4, wrote Alexander, "A closer inspection confirmed that the subject in the video was Jackson." And an Oct. 6 search of his condo yielded a pair of gray sweatpants, two white T-shirts and two bandanas — one black and one dark blue.
Jackson pleaded guilty to robbery, Dec. 27, in Circuit Court, and returned last Thursday, Feb. 17, for sentencing. Brown said he was recently treated at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital for his drug problem and his court-ordered, substance-abuse evaluation later recommended treatment. And, she added, "He told Det. Alexander where he hid [the gun]."
But none of that scored any points with the prosecutor. "The crime that Mr. Jackson committed was against a business and a person, and the woman working there that day was truly, purely a victim," said Nanavati. She was simply doing her job, he said, and hadn't done anything to put herself "in a position of being a victim."
The bottom line, he said, was that Jackson "understood what he was doing. He was diagnosed as being depressed and having a drug problem." If a person's depressed, said Nanavati, "You might have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. But there's nothing about depression that lessons the gravity or culpability of what he did."
He said Jackson robbed the doughnut store because "he just wanted some quick money. He had a past juvenile and adult criminal record — and was on 30 days post-release supervision [from a previous conviction] at the time. I believe the high end of the [sentencing] guidelines — eight years, eight months — is right and is what the sentence ought to be."
"I AGREE — it was egregious," said Brown. "It ought not to have been done." But instead of punishment, she asked Judge Gaylord Finch to consider rehabilitation for her client and a possible sentence to a two-year, drug-treatment program.
"On Sept. 1, he was discharged from Mount Vernon Hospital," she said. "This incident occurred on Sept. 7 so, clearly, it didn't help him." And because of this new conviction, she said, Jackson already faces some jail time previously suspended from some misdemeanor sentences.
Jackson then stood and addressed the court. "I would like to express my deepest regret and sorrow to the victim," he said. "My actions were uncalled for. Give me a chance to continue with my education and treatment so I can better understand [why I did this]."
But the judge was unmoved. He sentenced Jackson to 20 years in prison, suspending all but eight years, and placing him on five years post-release probation. Brown then asked Finch if he'd consider allowing Jackson to spend some of this time in a drug-treatment facility, but he replied, "No."