24-year sentence for Michael Hawkins in Basalt home robbery
October 18, 2013
A Parachute man was sentenced to 24 years in prison Tuesday for his role in an invasion and robbery of a Basalt home last November.
Michael Hawkins, 26, had pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary. Eagle County District Judge Fred Gannett sentenced him to 24 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the robbery conviction and 12 years for the conviction for conspiracy to commit burglary. The sentences will run concurrently, Gannett said, and Hawkins will get credit for the 314 days he has been in the Eagle County Jail.
Gannett said he would reconsider the sentence if Hawkins helps police and the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office earn convictions of the two other suspects in the case.
"You can do nothing or you can do a lot," Gannett told Hawkins.
In a brief statement to the judge before sentencing, Hawkins claimed he was surprised to find the homeowner at the house. He and his accomplices planned a burglary rather than a robbery, he said.
The victim, a woman in her 70s, was coming out of her bedroom after taking a shower and found two men in her house. She was held at gunpoint while the men searched her house for cash and valuables. When the robbers were ready to flee, the victim was ordered into a shower and told not to call police or they would come back to kill her, according to the Basalt Police Department report.
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But Hawkins claimed in court that he was surprised that his accomplice had a gun.
"The person that had the gun — I didn't know if he was going to shoot me, too," Hawkins said. "When we walked inside the house, I never knew there was going to be anybody inside the house. When he said, 'Shut up, shut up,' I said, 'Oh, my God, somebody's inside the house.' It basically scared me just as much as it scared her."
Hawkins claimed he saved the victim's life as the incident unfolded.
"When he put her inside the shower and he basically was going to shoot her, I told him not to," Hawkins said.
But Deputy District Attorney John Franks said Hawkins couldn't be believed as someone "who gallantly saved the victim's life." His decision-making that day and in prior incidents indicated he wasn't as innocent as he claimed, the prosecutor said.
Hawkins and his accomplice broke down the door of the house on Riverside Drive in Basalt with the expectation of hauling off a bunch of the victim's belongings, Franks said. Hawkins didn't abandon the plan when the elderly victim emerged unexpectedly, Franks said. Instead he plowed ahead with "deplorable conduct" and was greedy to find "loot" while the victim was held at gunpoint, he said.
They ultimately made off with more than $50,000 in jewelry, cash and other valuables, Franks said.
Hawkins even tried to pin the crime on a person he was mad at for not paying off a drug debt, according to Franks, who also noted that Hawkins has a lengthy criminal history, including arrests on suspicion of two prior burglaries, one of a residence and another of a business. Franks and Hawkins' court-appointed attorney, Terry O'Connor, had different accounts of convictions in those cases. Court records from Garfield County weren't immediately available.
Franks urged Gannett to sentence Hawkins to the maximum sentence of 32 years. The chances of Hawkins becoming a productive member of society are "extremely thin," Franks said.
"I believe one of the messages the court should send is this behavior will not be tolerated in this community," he said.
O'Connor said he wasn't going to attempt to minimize the crime, but he noted, "Over time, Mr. Hawkins has taken responsibility."
He said Hawkins became a ward of the state of California at a young age and that both his parents were crack-cocaine addicts. Hawkins abused drugs and alcohol at a young age and has been in trouble with the law, O'Connor acknowledged.
"He certainly is a product of his environment," O'Connor said.
But he noted that his client was caught off guard when the burglary turned into a robbery.
"Mr. Hawkins was not the one with the gun," O'Connor said.
He urged the judge to sentence Hawkins to 10 years in prison.
Hawkins later added, "I'm not a bad person. I made a bad decision."
When handing down the 24-year sentence, Gannett said Hawkins' claim that he prevented the victim from being shot didn't have "validity."
The judge also pressed Hawkins on the identity of the gunman, and the answer added a "whodunit" twist to the case. Hawkins identified Rafael Sanchez as the person holding the victim at gunpoint.
Rafael Sanchez was arrested in July and, thus far, has been going through the juvenile court system because he was 17 at the time of the home invasion. His brother, Sergio Sanchez, 25, of Rifle, was arrested months earlier, at about the same time as Hawkins.
Sergio Sanchez pleaded not guilty to aggravated robbery in July, and his case is moving toward trial.
Hawkins and Sergio Sanchez were arrested as part of the Basalt Police Department's investigation. Rafael Sanchez was arrested after an investigator with the District Attorney's Office examined statements by the suspects and determined that a third person was involved.
Franks said after the court hearing that two men were in the victim's house and a third man drove the getaway vehicle. He declined to say which Sanchez allegedly held the victim at gunpoint. Franks said the identity would emerge in court proceedings.