One of four St. Paul men who robbed the State Fair craft beer exhibit in 2014 of more than $100,000 has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison and ordered along with his punished partners in crime to make restitution for the loot.
Antonio T. Washington, 21, was sentenced in federal court Thursday for the robbery that occurred after hours on the night of Aug. 29, 2014, while an employee was tallying the day’s proceeds.
Washington and a fellow armed cohort, Jordan D. Strickland, 24, fled with the money. Strickland was convicted, then sentenced in July to slightly less than six years in prison.
In sentencing Washington, U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson noted that the defendant targeted the State Fair, a place where people expect to feel safe, and his violent crime committed there left “a wound on the community.”
Co-defendants Eligah Vernell Branson, 21, and Jarret Maiden, 36, were indicted on one count of interference with commerce by robbery and pleaded guilty. Maiden was sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison and Branson to just short of three years.
When authorities interviewed Maiden, a craft beer exhibit worker, he said he saw an opportunity to rob his employer. Branson’s alleged role was unclear.
In arguing for a sentence of no more than the mandatory minimum of seven years, defense attorney Paul Engh noted in a court filing that his client’s mother was a crack addict while pregnant with Washington and his birth as an addict “greatly impacted” his life and his brain’s function. Engh also noted that Washington’s father left the family early in Washington’s life and was rarely seen.
Washington and the other three have been ordered to make restitution totaling more than $108,000 to the vendor and the insurance company.
According to prosecutors:
Washington pointed a gun at an employee counting the proceeds and demanded the money from the brewers exhibit and nearby wine exhibit. When another employee arrived, Strickland, who was acting as a lookout, helped Washington bind the employees to chairs with duct tape.
The next day, Washington visited a St. Paul car dealership with another person and bought two cars for $6,000 in cash. The following week, Washington was stopped by police in Faribault. Officers recovered a .22-caliber revolver that matched the description of the gun used in the robbery.
Another week later, investigators interviewed Maiden, who was employed to work at the brewers exhibit. He admitted to authorities that he and another person, Branson, saw an opportunity to rob the exhibit. Maiden contacted Washington to carry out the robbery and identified Strickland as the accomplice. Maiden said the four met up after the robbery and divided the money.
Officers arrested Washington in mid-September of that year, and he confessed. He said he used some of the stolen cash to buy jewelry and clothes at the Mall of America.
Following Washington’s arrest, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said, “The State Fair should be about family fun with corn on the cob, cows and carnival rides. … This defendant disrupted our collective nostalgia by bringing violence to this summer ritual.”