BY KEN LITTLE
Kaylen Butcher, 19, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Greeneville to a prison term of five years and one month in connection with her role in the June 28, 2012, armed robbery of the Stop & Go Convenience Market in Chuckey.
Butcher, who was convicted of participating in a Hobbs Act robbery and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a violent criminal act, tearfully apologized to the victims of the crime and members of her family in the courtroom before sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan.
Butcher's testimony at the trial last year of Larry Shane Morgan, who also participated in the convenience store robbery and held up a Greeneville Federal Bank branch several days later on his own, apparently helped convince Judge Jordan to impose a less severe sentence than would have been possible, prosecutor J. Gregory Bowman and defense lawyer Jordan Pennington both said.
Morgan, 36, who was found guilty in October of armed bank robbery and five other crimes associated with the armed robberies, will be sentenced next month.
Co-defendant Brandon Shelton will also be sentenced in February. Shelton entered a guilty plea Oct. 2 in federal court to making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
She THANKS JUDGE
Butcher, shackled and clad in a lime-green jail uniform, thanked Judge Jordan in a wavering voice as she was led out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals.
She could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years just on the Hobbs Act conviction, Pennington said, and instead received just one month on that part of the charges against her.
The Hobbs Act prohibits robbery affecting interstate commerce and was applied to Butcher's case because of products such as Budweiser beer sold at the convenience store.
Possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a violent criminal offense carries a five-year minimum sentence, the amount of time Butcher received on that conviction, Pennington said.
Judge Jordan granted a motion by the government for a downward departure in Butcher's sentence based on her assistance in the Morgan case, and agreed to a further reduction in sentence requested by Pennington.
Butcher will serve five years of supervised release after she gets out of prison. She was also ordered by Jordan to pay restitution to the victim of her crime.
During sentencing, Jordan directed that Butcher receive 500 hours of substance abuse treatment while she is in prison, and undergo a mental health evaluation.
"I want you to know I think the government has been fair to you and gone the extra mile for you," Jordan told Butcher.
The judge also recommended that Butcher take advantage of available educational classes "and participate in learning a trade or other marketable skill."
"I appreciate the fact you have family here today," Jordan said. "We all want you to overcome this.
"If you will do [what is recommended] and come back, you may be able to be a productive citizen."
A 'GOOD' SENTENCE
Pennington, whose practice is based in Bristol, Va., said Butcher must serve at least 85 percent of her sentence before being considered for release.
"For a federal sentence, this was pretty good, especially for a Hobbs Act robbery," he said.
Before Butcher was sentenced, Pennington suggested to Judge Jordan that her acts were "out of character."
"She's a real sweet girl, in my opinion," he said afterward.
Bowman called the sentence "satisfactory" and said the government was mindful of her youth.
"But she committed a very serious offense, unfortunately," he said.
About eight family members and friends, including Butcher's mother and sister, were in court for the sentencing.
MORGAN DIRECTED ACTIONS
Butcher testified at Morgan's trial that he directed her actions during the robbery at the Stop & Go Market.
On the night of July 2, 2012, after the bank robbery, Morgan left cash, clothing and a gun with Butcher at her Old Stage Road house before leaving out her bedroom window, she testified.
Butcher testified at Morgan's trial that she and Morgan met at a 2012 New Year's Eve party and began a romantic relationship several months later.
Butcher and Shelton, who was 18 years old when he was arrested, were long-time friends and also had a relationship.
Butcher testified she was "strung out" on narcotic pills at the time of the robberies, used drugs with both men, and testified that Morgan sometimes supplied her with pills.
When first approached by FBI agents on July 3 and in several other statements given to authorities, Butcher admitted lying about her knowledge of the bank robbery.
"It was my first time in trouble. I was scared. I didn't know all what was going on," she testified.
'ADDLED' BY DRUGS
When Morgan was picked up on the morning of July 3 after his truck was spotted outside the Fox Motel in Johnson City, he was carrying a Rue 21 store bag from Kaylen Butcher's house that was full of cash, prosecutors said at Morgan's trial.
The trial testimony of Butcher, Shelton and several other friends and relatives who are admitted drug-users was at times inexact and confused, but communicated the most important facts pointing to Morgan's guilt, Bowman said after the conclusion of that trial.
The jury in the Morgan trial rejected the contention of his defense lawyers that Butcher and Shelton were responsible for both robberies.
Morgan is likely to receive a prison sentence that will keep him in prison for more than 20 years.