A Ramsey County District judge sentenced a repeat felon who admitted robbing a woman at gunpoint this spring on a Green Line train in St. Paul to a year in the county workhouse and 10 years probation, setting aside the nearly seven-year prison term recommended by state sentencing guidelines.
Judge George Stephenson on Tuesday handed down the lighter sentence to Bobby Neal Cole Jr., 23, despite requests from both the prosecutor and victim for an 81-month prison term.
Stephenson said public safety would be better served if Cole spent a year in the workhouse, received drug treatment and close monitoring on probation instead of time in prison where he would become even more of a "hoodlum."
The victim, who works two jobs and had her paycheck, cash and cellphone stolen during the May 27 robbery, said in a written statement that she felt "complete fear" during the crime.
The aggravated robbery was committed on a train moving along University Avenue as it approached Fairview Avenue Station, and was caught on surveillance video. Cole is seen pointing the gun at the victim while an accomplice, Jaymon Jarel Burton, 22, grabs items.
"I just want to put my mind at ease and travel without looking over my shoulder," the victim said in a written statement, imploring the judge for a prison sentence.
"In any context, this was a serious offense made more stark given guns in St. Paul right now," said Assistant County Attorney Cory Tennison before the judge issued the sentence. "Robbing someone with a gun should be prison."
But Cole's attorney, Kate Latimer Courtney, argued that he should be spared prison because he accepted responsibility and was amenable to drug treatment.
The second defendant, Burton, has also pleaded guilty to robbery and will be sentenced in December.