A 17-year-old boy will serve up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to his part in an armed robbery at a MetroLink station.
Javar Hicks pleaded guilty last month to aggravated discharge of a firearm. His plea agreement included dropping the other charge of armed robbery. He was charged two weeks after a man was robbed and shot in the back at a MetroLink station near the Casino Queen in November 2016, one of three MetroLink shootings reported within 11 days.
Hicks was charged as an adult, and St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida sentenced him Thursday to 25 years in prison, of which Hicks must serve 85 percent.
Defense attorney Thomas Phillo asked for a 10-year sentence, pointing out that Hicks was only 17 years old — 16 when the incident occurred. He had no criminal record before this incident, Phillo said, and was brought along by his two older cousins, who were involved in a series of robberies and shootings at MetroLink stations.
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One of them, Deangelo Franklin, of East St. Louis, was sentenced in late September to serve 31 years in prison – only six years more than the 25 years requested by the prosecution, Phillo said, though Franklin was involved in two shootings.
Javar’s mother, Lettie Hicks, spoke briefly about her son, describing him as a curious boy who struggled with depression and was treated at one point as a possible suicide risk while growing up in an East St. Louis housing project. She said he achieved high honors in high school, but was impulsive and didn’t think through his actions.
“I hate that this was inflicted on you at the hands of my son,” she said to the victim, who appeared in court.
The victim, Eric Rasmussen, of St. Louis, provided a letter to Haida detailing the impact the shooting has had on his life. Haida read the letter silently. Rasmussen is currently using a walker and has spent time in a wheelchair since the shooting, he said; prosecutor Erin Connor said the bullet shattered three vertebra when Hicks shot Rasmussen, ostensibly to prevent him from reaching the security intercom on the platform.
“Eric went to the Casino Queen that night, and little did he know that this was not going to be his lucky night,” Connor said. “Not only because he only won six dollars at the casino, but that he would meet up with Javar Hicks.”
Connor acknowledged Hicks’ young age and the fact that his two older cousins had since been caught after another shooting and gave him up. But she said the Rasmussen shooting indicated “a level of depravity that can’t be explained by peer pressure.”
Connor also pointed out that Hicks himself had been shot only a few months before the incident.
Phillo, however, said that Hicks had nothing to do with his cousins’ earlier crimes, whom he referred to as “ringleaders” of a string of MetroLink robberies and shootings. He said that nothing in his history indicated he was likely to do this.
“He is remorseful, contrite, and desires to set his life back on track,” Phillo said.
He pointed out that Hicks has a family system in place, and also has a 2-year-old child living with her mother in Columbia.
Hicks said his actions were “a horrible mistake,” and told Haida he wants to get his life together and doesn’t want to avoid responsibility for his actions.
“I’m my own man making my own decisions,” he said. “I know I shouldn’t let people influence me to make wrong decisions.”
He apologized to Rasmussen as well.
“He didn’t deserve to be shot or robbed,” he said.
But Haida acceded to the prosecution’s point that the incident took place at MetroLink, which damaged the public’s perception of the transportation mode and hurt commerce, which Connor argued meant that a stronger sentence was necessary to deter future violence on the train platforms.
“The cruel thing about our world now is that you are old enough to father a child, but not smart enough to know you shouldn’t be out at night committing an evil act,” Haida said. “You’re going to be a totally different person when you get out, and you have control of that.”
Hicks’ mother and stepfather left immediately after the sentence was announced. His stepfather had tears on his face as they left. Rasmussen declined to comment on the sentence.
Hicks will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence, which would be 21 and a quarter years, minus time served. He will be on supervised release for three years after his sentence.