Tony Hampton was born in prison, the son of a drug-addicted mother serving state time. And because of the 75-year sentence the 27-year-old received Monday for the first-degree, execution-style murder of a man who was unarmed, he will probably die in prison.
Hampton must serve all 75 years for the early morning shooting of 29-year-old Salahudin Malik Robbins of Berkley, Missouri., in the parking lot of the Bottoms Up Club in Brooklyn in December 2015 as scores of people were returning to their cars. With credit for time served, he won’t be eligible for parole until he is about 100 years old.
The victim’s mother, Mara Robbins-Couch, testified during the three-hour sentencing and, looking at the defendant, said, “I pray that you, Mr. Hampton, never get a chance to hurt anyone else.”
Hampton spoke briefly and apologized to his own family and, “More importantly, to the Robbins family.”
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The sentence was handed down by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse, who described the case, which was caught on a color surveillance tape that was shown to the jury, as a tragedy for two families — the victim’s and the defendant’s.
During the sentencing, clinical psychologist Dr. Daniel Cuneo testified for the defense that Hampton had an I.Q. of 65, well-below the average of about 100, and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder that was the result of an abused childhood where he was passed from family member to family member until he ended up in a group home. Cuneo said Hampton was born in prison but didn’t give specifics.
Cuneo said that as far as he could determine, Hampton was fit to stand trial and was not psychotic. However, the diagnosis of PTSD was not known to the defense at trial, according to attorney Dedra Moore, who raised the issue of whether Hampton’s trial would have had a different outcome had this been known.
A concerned Cruse questioned Hampton at sentencing as to whether he understood what was going on and was satisfied that she could proceed.
While asking for a life sentence, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said, “The longer this defendant is off the streets, your honor, the better.”
Citing trial testimony, Kelly said that Hampton and Tiye Allen, who was convicted in the case earlier this year and received 60 years, began firing at Robbins at a distance. Then, when the victim lay wounded on gravel, the tape shows Hampton running up and firing two shots nearly point blank that stuck the victim in the head and neck, killing him.
Kelly said the two then led police on a high-speed chase that ended in Missouri during which time, according to trial testimony, Hampton told Allen, “I got him. I got him.”
“This was a chance encounter. It’s not a drug deal gone wrong. This was a planned execution. No one should be hunted down,” Kelly stated at the hearing. Afterward, he told a reporter that a motive for the murder wasn’t known and the two may have waited for anyone to have come out of the club.
“They did it without any provocation from the victim. He (Hampton) shot a gun at least seven times in the middle of a crowded parking lot. This court should not tolerate the straight up execution of anyone.”
Moore, the defense attorney, told Cruse that her client had endured a life of abuse. “He was born in prison and he will die in prison,” she said.
Moore testified that with proper mental health treatment her client could “be restored to be a useful citizen.” Citing testimony from Cuneo, the psychologist, she said her client over-reacted to what she said was gunfire that started when he was still in a car with others who had been drinking liquor and taking Ecstasy pills.
But Assistant State’s Attorney Amanda Fischer countered earlier in the hearing that trial testimony showed that Hampton and Allen leaped together from the car and began firing at Robbins.
During his trial, a police forensic expert testified that a handgun tied to Hampton was the same weapon that killed the victim. Hampton’s trial defense attorney argued in an opening statement that Hampton fired only to save his own life.
Allen initially was arrested on an unrelated charge and then linked to the murder through the surveillance tape and his Facebook account. Hampton was arrested later.