The sentencing last week of La Darrien McCaskill, 22, of Palm Coast, brought a circuit court to a defendant to close the book on a pair of armed robberies that date back to 2018 and 2019, one of which was left a man paralyzed for life, the two of which sent four others to prison for terms ranging from three to 15 years. The conviction also illustrated how the prosecution and the court offer clemency to a defendant without whom securing further convictions would have been impossible.
McCaskill got off with the most lenient sentence yet: no jail time. Six months in the local county jail, with credit for more than two months already served, two years house arrest, with travel allowance to and from work, followed by three years probation. He had faced up to 45 years in prison, based on his original charges. But he had pleaded (like all the others). The plea deal included the state’s agreement that he would be sentenced as a minor. McCaskill had also cooperated with prosecutors, pointing the finger at Jimaya Baker, the ringleader, and Jimari Baker.
Prosecutors had skillfully and ruthlessly used different members of the conspiracy against each other at different times during the investigation and as the cases dragged through the courts over the past three years, securing convictions in each case without have to go through a trial.
“Mr. McCaskill was cooperative, to be frank with the court, if he hadn’t presented,” said Assistant District Attorney Melissa Clark, who prosecuted the case, using the legal term which means to cooperate with the court. prosecution by presenting evidence that cannot be used against him,” I could not have prosecuted Jimari Baker, the shooter, so it was essential for us to have his cooperation for that to happen. And he did. He offered for us. She later added, “Thanks to this cooperation, we were able to prosecute the shooter and also ensure that Jimaya Baker is punished for his involvement in a second robbery.”
Jimaya Baker was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January. Jimari was sentenced to three years in prison followed by five years probation. Diovion Smith received five years.
Princess Williams, who inadvertently pulled the trigger on the gun she was holding as she opened the door of the car victim Carlos Saint Felix was driving to get away from the thieves, is the sole defendant who has yet to be convicted, despite having been in county jail for three and a half years. She will be 25 in June. She pleaded in December 2019. Her sentencing has been rescheduled several times since, with the next now scheduled for July 15 at 9 a.m. (“I ask for clemency so I can go home with an ankle monitor and community check-up” , wrote Circuit Judge Terence Perkins last May, “I have a disabled mother who is having spinal surgery and will not be able to walk or care for herself for some time.” , Williams told the judge that during her time in prison, she was “sexually and physically assaulted more than once.” She was denied release.
She faces three counts, each of which could carry up to life in prison: attempted murder, armed robbery and armed robbery. The minimum mandatory prison sentence she faces is 25 years, absent a so-called “start down”, which a judge could order, with stated justifications. She pleaded on January 27, 2020. It was an open plea, which means the judge can enter any plea deemed appropriate. St. Felix’s attempted robbery and shooting took place on October 16, 2018, at 50 Whitestar Drive, when she was 21 years old.
Williams was arrested two days later and imprisoned, essentially guaranteeing that she would not be involved in her co-conspirators’ subsequent robbery almost exactly a year later at 48 Seven Wonders Trail, where the victims were two teenage boys – the robbery in which McCaskill participated. .
McCaskill had held off one of the victims while Jimaya Baker took money from him. The two teens were “selling cannabis out of their house,” Clark described it. “Jimaya Baker was the shooter” in this incident, Clark said.
Now 22, McCaskill has worked full-time at Sonny for two years, he told circuit judge Terence Perkins. He is working on his commercial driver’s license (he took the test at the end of February). He lives with his parents, contributing to household expenses.
Scott Westbrook, his attorney, asked him if he worked with the state to find out who did what during the robbery. He said he did. He had admitted his role in the crime and provided information to investigators indicating that the two bakers were directly involved. He had moved in with the Bakers when he was 19, “for a few months,” he said.
“And to the best of your ability, have you given truthful testimony to the State?”
“Yes, sir,” McCaskill said. He said he was “very” remorseful that the crime took place. “Also, I feel like I don’t want any situation to define me as a person as to who I am, as who I’m trying to be. I don’t want it as a mistake that I made to define myself as a person.
“Do you understand that you are accused of a crime that legally you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison?” He understood.
With McCaskill’s cooperation, Clark agreed to reduce the charges, eliminating the firearms component of the robbery charge and accepting juvenile status. Clark was not advocating jail time, saying McCaskill “did a huge service to the state of Florida” by securing more convictions — a pair of words McCaskill can now wear as a badge in future job interviews. She insisted that McCaskill maintain full employment and, of course, have no contact with the other conspirators. She was also concerned about two young offender cases when McCaskill was charged with possession of pot, suggesting a substance abuse problem.
“I can’t argue with the state’s position that it looks like it was an issue in this particular case as well,” Westbrook said. McCaskill has no room to violate the terms of his sentence (house arrest and probation), as violations would land him in jail. Westbrook did not contest any of the prosecution’s demands, with one exception: McCaskill faced six months in prison. Westbrook said it would cause him to lose his job at Sonny and derail his hopes of becoming a commercial truck driver. He also asked the judge to “give my client a chance to show that he could be someone different” and not convict him as a criminal.
Clark deferred to Perkins on these matters. “There are good parts and bad parts that are appropriate in this case,” Perkins said. He accepted juvenile delinquent status, thanks to McCaskill’s cooperation. “But at the end of the day, we’re still left with the fact that it was a planned theft,” the judge said. “And that’s very disturbing to me.” He did not move on the 180 days in prison. “I think there’s an element of it that was bad, and it was very bad and you knew it was very bad when it happened. And that’s why the prison sentence,” Perkins helps.
But Perkins withheld judgment, which means McCaskill will not be a convicted felon, acknowledging that McCaskill today was not the person who committed the robbery three years ago.