Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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December 2, 2013

Faith the key in one prison term

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — One defendant in a couple of Garvin County home invasions three years ago says his own spiritual beliefs will keep him strong as he begins yet another round of time behind bars.

Justin Robbins, 24, was one of two defendants finding out their fates this week in a Pauls Valley courtroom, namely the number of years included in their prison sentences.

Robbins was the first sentenced followed later on the same day, Nov. 25, by Jonathon Smith, 24.

The two defendants are among a group of five area men who each have faced multiple charges for home invasions of residences in Pauls Valley and Elmore City back in 2010 resulting in a night of terror for those inside.

Four of the men have confessed to their involvement, while another was convicted in a jury trial earlier this year.

Both Robbins and Smith have admitted to being one of four masked men who forced their way in to burglarize the two area homes on Nov. 14-15, 2010.

A fifth man, Tygue Stephens, has admitted to being the getaway driver. He has pleaded no contest and awaits his sentence in January.

During his sentencing Robbins literally had an entire courtroom full of support with many coming from the local churches he’s been a part of since getting out of jail more than a year ago.

Some even took the stand as all agreed Robbins is a changed man who has done a lot of positives through his work with local churches and youth groups.

Robbins himself even took the stand to offer some of his thoughts on such things as what he would say to the victims today.

“The first thing I would tell them is I’m sorry,” Robbins said.

“Nobody deserves that. There’s no excuse that I could make for what happened. Sorry wouldn’t be good enough,” he said.

“I was there. I saw their reactions to what it did to them. There’s no words to make up for that.”

The defendant said it was his spiritual faith that would guide him regardless of the sentence.

As for his punishment, Robbins wasn’t really sure when asked what was appropriate.

“That’s a hard one,” he said. “I’m scared. I try to be a man of integrity and make the right decisions.

“As far as being a Christian, you’re supposed to forgive. I’m still struggling to forgive myself.

“Whatever the court has for me let’s do it. I don’t want to go back to jail. If that happens I’ll be OK because I’m strong with the Lord.”

Assistant District Attorney Tara Portillo didn’t question Robbins’ faith but instead focused her message on him being held accountable for his actions.

She proceeded to stand and say aloud the names of the victims in the case — those individuals inside the two homes invaded by the thieves.

“We wanted everyone to hear their names,” Portillo said to the courtroom packed with Robbins’ supporters. “They haven’t been mentioned all day.

“I get it, none of these people want him to go to jail because they know him as a person. I have no doubt what these people feel for him is heartfelt.”

Portillo was quick to offer more about the terror felt by the victims.

“These are not mistakes. They were willful, malicious criminal acts,” she said, adding all the victims were in a situation that made them believe they were going to die.

The prosecutor said it was in the Elmore City home where a women was injured trying to protect her 4-year-old son and a man was beaten so severely he required 60 staples in his head afterward.

“Sorry doesn’t just wipe that away. Finding religion does not wipe that away. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t get punished your honor.

“Sorry doesn’t cut it.”

Defense attorney Dee Graves agreed his client was involved in the crimes.

He also stressed Robbins was in a unique position of using his time out of jail in a positive way, where he “genuinely changed” and touched a lot of lives through his work with the local churches.

“He is now a man that is a safe risk,” Graves said. “He’s been given an opportunity and he’s made the most of it. I think he’s a safe bet.”

Had Graves gotten what he asked for, a 10-year term with all of suspended, his client would have walked out a free man that very day.

On the other side, the state requested a 20-year sentence.

Robbins did receive a variety of prison terms with some suspended sentences. In the end he was given a five-year term in prison with credit for time already served.

Editor’s note: More on the sentencing for Jonathon Smith will come in this weekend’s edition of the PV Democrat.

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