Weeks sentenced to 14 years for role in Carbondale armed robbery
Benjamin Weeks of California will spend 14 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for what prosecutors said was his lead role in an armed robbery of the Carbondale Cowen Center convenience store along with his cousin last winter.
Ninth District Judge James Boyd struck a middle ground at the Tuesday sentencing hearing between Deputy District Attorney Zac Parsons’ request for 21 years, and the 10 years argued by defense attorney Chip McCrory.
“This is a very serious crime that you were involved in,” Boyd said. But the judge acknowledged McCrory’s defense of the situation that Weeks had been essentially on his own since age 16 and homeless in California before his cousin, Nicholas Ameral, invited him to come find a job in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“You have had hardship in your life, and that’s not all your fault … it’s other people in your life making bad choices,” Boyd said before handing down the sentence.
Weeks will get credit for 355 days served in the Garfield County Jail since his arrest. However, a pending matter involves extradition proceedings in Las Vegas where he is also being charged in a first-degree murder case.
Last month after a seven-day trial, a Garfield County jury found Weeks, now 20, guilty on all four felony counts of aggravated robbery and menacing for the Feb. 16, 2017, robbery, in which two clerks, one who was off duty, were held at gunpoint. Weeks and Ameral made off with $500 and eluded authorities for several days, eventually jumping off a RFTA bus near Basalt and running into the hills when police were on their tail. They surrendered the next day.
Ameral ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison, while Weeks decided to stand trial and had maintained he was not involved in the robbery.
However, DNA evidence found on the 9 mm Glock and clothes connected to the crime pointed to Weeks, according to testimony at the trial.
Ameral had testified that the robbery was an unplanned crime committed while he was too intoxicated to remember the details, and declined to finger Weeks as his accomplice.
Prosecutors also argued that Ameral and his mother, Alicia Jackson, both made statements after the robbery implicating Weeks as the second robber. Those statements proved more difficult to elicit on the stand.
McCrory asserted during the trial that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Weeks was the second robber.
At sentencing, McCrory said Weeks decided to go to trial because a plea offer from the DA’s office would have essentially entailed the maximum sentence range.
“While this is a serious matter that should be punished, nonetheless no one was shot, no one was injured, no one was kidnapped, no hostages taken,” McCrory said. “This was just a stupid, run-of-the-mill robbery … and it should be treated with the mandatory maximum.”
McCrory had argued for no more than a 10-year prison sentence, discounting the two counts each of aggravated robbery and menacing that were leveled because two victims were involved.
Deputy DA Parsons argued for the heftier sentence as a deterrent to others thinking of committing a similar crime.
“It you point a gun at someone, we need to send a message that it’s a crime that will not go unpunished,” he said. Parsons said he found Weeks’s assertion that he was “framed,” and that he had no involvement in the robbery to be “offensive.”