16-year-old sentenced to 15 years for robbery after judge changes mind
A 16-year-old Utah teen was sentenced to up to 15 years in a maximum security prison after a judge changed to terms of his plea agreement.
Cooper Van Huizen pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree felony robbery for his role in a home invasion last year.
The teen, who had no prior criminal history, and his parents believed the plea deal would result in 180 days in jail. But District Judge Ernie Jones told Van Huizen at the May 7 sentencing hearing he believed the terms recommended by prosecutors and the probation board were “too soft” and instead sent the boy to Utah State Prison for one to 15 years.
Van Huizen cried and begged for mercy as he was led from the courtroom handcuffed in front of sobbing family members.
“He’s 16 years old,” said his father, Marc Van Huizen. “Some 16-years-olds are more mature than others, but Cooper is really soft and tender emotionally. He’s just a nice, sweet young boy, always has been. He’s not this rough-and-tough, wannabe street-wise little kid.”
To protect him from other prisoners, the teen is being held in a cell alone at “Uintah 1.” The unit houses death-row inmates and gang members.
Van Huizen was the youngest member in a group who went to a home and held up two people at gunpoint, seeking money, cell points, and marijuana on Nov. 19. A victim told police the assailants ordered him to lie down on his stomach at gunpoint. The teens left with $10, a wallet, a cellphone and a bag of weed.
Van Huizen admitted to bringing tow of his father’s loaded guns to the robbery, but says other teens pointed the guns at the victims. The judge noted that the teens planned six similar robberies, but Van Huizen’s lawyer said no evidence linked him to the plot.
Van Huizen and his parents are fighting the sentence on the grounds that their defense attorney failed to provide sound legal advice. Their new attorney has requested that the judge reconsider his sentence. Van Huizen’s previous attorney said he would be eligible for a 402 reduction, a sentence that reduces felonies to misdemeanors once he completed probation if he accepted the plea deal.
Co-defendant Joshua Dutson, 17, was sentenced by the same judge to 210 on the same plea agreement Van Huizen accepted. Another teen involved in the case was sentenced to 180 in jail. He is 19-years-old.
This seems a bit excessive and unfair. Thoughts on this?
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