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Card game robbery yields 23-year sentence

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By Tom Wilmoth

A 23-year-old Goode man will spend the next half of his life in prison, following sentencing for robbing a card game in Bedford in March 2007.

Tyrell Donshey Spinner, 23, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to robbing 11 people at a Liberty Apartments residence and using a firearm when committing those crimes. Spinner received a 20 year sentence on 11 robbery charges, a shooting into an occupied dwelling charge and a charge of burglary with intent to rob. He received a 23-year sentence on five firearms charges, all which carry mandatory sentences.

During sentencing last Friday, Judge James Updike suspended the 20 years on the robbery charges, but said he was mandated to sentence Spinner to 23 years to serve on the firearms charges — three years for the first charge and five years on each of the four subsequent charges.

Defense attorney Darren Shoen had argued that Spinner should receive a sentence similar to those received by two juvenile defendants, from between two to four years. Those two defendants, cousins of Spinner, were tried as adults but were sentenced by Updike on the firearms charges with guidelines for juveniles. The commonwealth's attorney's office has appealed those sentences to the Court of Appeals which has agreed to hear the case. The commonwealth's position, that they should have received sentences based upon the mandatory adult guidelines, will be argued to the attorney general's office.

During last week's sentencing hearing, Shoen pointed to Spinner's upbringing, in which his mother died while he was a teen and he lived in foster and group home situations. He also pointed to the fact that Spinner had spent time being treated for mental health issues. Shoen said Spinner had went to the police and helped with the investigation, feeling that if he did the right thing, “everything would work out.”

He argued that the firearms charges could run concurrently, rather than consecutively.

Spinner testified that he and his cousins had decided together to rob the people at the card game. “We made a mistake,” he said. “We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Spinner said he didn't want to commit the crime at first. “Something came over me,” he said, adding that he hears voices that tell him to do actions he doesn't want to do.

Spinner and each of his cousins took a gun into the residence. Spinner said he kept his gun down by his side and didn't remember pointing it at anybody. He said he was sorry for what happened. “I've had a whole lot of time to think about,” he said.

Among the victims who were robbed was Spinner's uncle.

“I'm not that bad of a person,” Spinner said, adding that he wanted to get his general education diploma and a good job. “I've never gotten into trouble like this.”

He said he felt terrible about it. “It hurts me every night that I think about it,” Spinner said before his sentence was handed down.

Updike said he likes to be consistent in sentencing. “You're a little bit older, but not that much older,” Updike said of Spinner and the other two juvenile defendants. Updike said he didn't have discretion on the mandated sentence.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark Robinette said that Spinner and his cousins were masked when they entered the apartment and threats were made to shoot someone, as an example to the others. He said at one point a gun was put to one of the victims' heads and a shot was later fired. Some of the victims were taken into a bedroom and the others remained in the living room area.

Originally five people were arrested in the case, including the one who drove Spinner and his cousins to the apartments and another who picked them up. Charges against one were dropped and the second pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges as an accessory after the fact.

The robbery yielded as much as $290 from one individual to a pack of cigarettes from another. Robinette estimated about $1,000 was taken total.