A Shreveport, Louisiana man was recently sentenced to 60 years in prison for aggravated assault and robbery in Marshall, near the Louisiana border. The defendant, 32-year-old Broderick Maximillian McHenry, was robbing a gas station, and beat clerks with a baseball bat during the robbery.
Although McHenry’s offenses were severe and he had a prior record of violence, a sentence of this magnitude is typically reserved for repeat offenders who cause permanently disabling bodily injury and/or use a firearm. Yet many of these elements were not present in McHenry’s case, so why did McHenry receive such a severe sentence, and what possible defenses could have been used more effectively in his case?
Texas Sentencing for Assault and Robbery
Aggravated assault in our state is a serious crime, but it’s not an act that typically nets someone a 60-year sentence. In fact, unless the assault is a domestic assault or the victim is an emergency worker, informant, police officer, public official, security guard, or witness, the longest sentence is 20 years, along with a fine of up to $10,000.
On the other hand, the consequences for Texas robbery charges can be a bit more severe. Aggravated robbery, sometimes referred to as “armed robbery,” is a Class 1 felony punishable by a minimum of 5 years and up to 99 years of imprisonment, and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Robbery occurs when the defendant is trying to steal something, and during the course of the offense, hurts or threatens someone. One or more of the below aggravating factors elevate the charge to that of aggravated robbery:
- Causing serious bodily injury to another
- Using or brandishing a deadly weapon
- Threatening someone who is 65 or older with serious bodily injury or death
- Causing bodily injury to a disabled person
- Threatening a disabled person with serious bodily injury and death
Why Sentencing was So Severe
The sentence McHenry received was on the more severe end of the spectrum for aggravated assault and robbery. There were several factors that led to his lengthy sentence beyond those mentioned above.
Although McHenry had no prior armed robbery or other felony convictions, he did have a previous history of violent offenses. These include past arrests for domestic battery, violation of a protective order, resisting arrest from an officer, and a complaint of pushing his sister to the ground while she was pregnant.
Additionally, the state called a witness who testified that McHenry had raped her when he broke into her family’s home a few days before the robbery. He allegedly held a gun to her head, and said that he would kill her if she didn’t have sex with him. DNA evidence linked McHenry to the alleged offense, and the witness was able to pick him out of a lineup. The aggravated sexual assault case is still pending in Louisiana.
Physical and Emotional Damages to Victims
The testimony of the convenience store clerks and surveillance footage was also key in assessing a severe sentence. McHenry severely beat both clerks with a baseball bat, attempting to hit one in the head. Further, even though both clerks’ drawers were open with access to the money, McHenry continued beating both victims.
One victim testified that he still suffers from his injuries over a year later, and that the robbery has left him paranoid about working in a gas station. The other victim has not worked since the incident.
Sending a message to out-of-towners
McHenry is not from Marshall, which is located in Harrison County near the Louisiana border. He is from nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, which is known to be a high crime area.
Solomon seemed to take this into account, stating that “Again, it’s another person from another county that has a lot of crime coming into Harrison County, and causing things to go wrong. This wasn’t a citizen of Harrison County, fortunately, and I’m glad that the judge sent a message and we were able to send a message (that) if you’re from out of county and you come here, we will take appropriate action.”
In fact, the district attorney, Coke Solomon, asked the judge to assess a Life sentence for McHenry. Even though he didn’t get his wish, he said that he was “pleased with the results” and that a 60-year sentence was “appropriate.”
Although the nature of McHenry’s offense was grievous, his mental state may have affected his culpability. His court-appointed attorney in fact asked for McHenry to be sentenced to parole due to his history of mental illness.
McHenry had been diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and was not taking his medications at the time of the offense. He had previously been treated in an inpatient facility, but was recently denied treatment during a severe episode. In addition, McHenry was high on illicit drugs at the time of the offense. It could therefore be argued that his mental state at the time of the offense lacked the element of intent.
Even though most aggravated assault charges are unlikely to lead to such a lengthy sentence, they are a very serious matter no matter what the scenario. For difficult cases such as McHenry’s, it is imperative to retain the best available criminal defense attorney. In order to protect your rights in serious cases, you need the knowledge and skill that only an experienced Texas criminal lawyer can provide.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.