Sangamon County judge John Madonia sentenced 28-year-old Damarco Watts of St. Louis to 26-years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Watts was found guilty of armed robbery during a jury trial in January. Thirty-year-old Sterling Martin, 25-year-old Tiffany Oden and 23-year-old Ashly Anderson have been sentenced to 18, 12 and 10 years in prison, respectively, for the armed robbery.
Watts was represented by special public defender Elliot Turpin. Turpin asked for an eight-year prison sentence.
“That sentence was certainly shocking to me," says Turpin. "My client was not the gunman in this case, my client didn't take any of the money, and yet the person who did use a gun and went over the counter of the bank and stole money only got 18 years. The judge talked about sending a messages and I'm not really sure what message that sends."
Watts helped rob the bank with Martin, Oden and Anderson. Testimony provided by bank employees Cheryl Newell, Patty Crews and Brett Brockhouse indicates Watts entered the bank on June 8th of last year asking to use the restroom. He then led Crews to an area in the back of the bank near Brockhouse’s office and held them at gunpoint. Meanwhile, Martin and Oden demanded money from Newell at the front of the bank.
Turpin argued Watts was not in on the plan to rob the bank and never demanded money from anyone.
Testimony indicated Martin and Watts each brandished semi-automatic guns during the robbery. Nobody was physically harmed. The robbers were apprehended in Manchester after a high-speed pursuit on Route 67.
During the sentencing hearing, Watts addressed the court and apologized to the victims of his crime. He asked for leniency so he could return to care for wife and children.
Morgan County state’s attorney Chris Reif requested the 26-year sentence pointing to several previous theft, robbery, and gun-related felony convictions in other states.
“I certainly think based upon all the factors to consider that this is something that I knew had to be closer to the maximum [sentence]," says Reif. "[This is] an individual that has failed at opportunities where we have tried as a system, either in Missouri, Colorado or Illinois, to work with him in the past. He's failed to cooperate and work with us. He's failed to take necessary actions to change his behavior. He continues to commit felonies shortly after being released from a previous felony. The only safety the community can have from an individual such as this is to keep him incarcerated."
Laura Marks, senior vice president of Jacksonville Savings Bank and Chapin State Bank, says she was pleased with the sentence.
“We’d like to thank the law enforcement community, the state's attorney's office, and most of all our employees who went through this tragedy," says Marks.
Reif says more than $12,000 was taken during the robbery. All of it was recovered.