Wearing a jail uniform and shackles, 23-year-old Bryan Jim shuffled up to the wooden court room podium and unfolded a piece of yellow paper from his pocket a speech he wrote in jail.
I didnt realize the severity of the crime, he said, apologizing to the victim and his family for not having the courage to stand up to his cousin or himself to stop the crime from happening. He asked the judge for a fair sentence based on the choice he made.
Jim was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role as an accomplice in the armed robbery of a Cortez convenience store after an emotional hearing Tuesday.
The victim, a store clerk, spoke to the court, telling a story of being held at gunpoint and repeatedly told he was not doing what was asked of him. Eventually, he was ordered to the ground as the two robbers left the store.
I felt like I lay there on the floor forever waiting to die, he said.
The clerk said he relives the incident every time he sees a newscast involving a robbery or gun.
It causes me to replay that night over again, as if I were watching a tape, he said.
Several of Jims family members tearfully addressed the court, describing Jim as kind, considerate and a positive influence on younger family members. While they were biologically cousins, aunts, uncles and a grandparent of Jim they felt he is a brother or son.
Sheila Jim, the defendants grandmother, said news of his arrest reached the family just months after the death of his grandfather.
It really devastated our whole family as I was mourning my late husband, she said.
She asked the judge to grant a lenient sentence because she needed her grandsons help around the house.
While the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 16 years in prison, District Judge Todd Plewe sentenced Jim to 14 based on his absence of an adult criminal record.
Plewe told the defendant violent crimes can have more impact in rural communities. He said he must set a sentence that will deter future crimes and send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated in the community.
Although Jim did not hold the gun or make demands during the robbery, Plewe said he acted in concert with the other robber and had several opportunities to back down that night.
You didnt have a gun in your hand, but the jury convicted you of that, the judge said, referring to a September trial in which Jim was found guilty of aggravated armed robbery, menacing and theft.
In addition to the 14 years of prison, Jim was sentenced to five years parole and must pay court costs and restitution in an amount to be determined. He was given credit for the 223 days he has already served in jail and the option of a possible community corrections program in the future.
Bryan Jim and his cousin Sebastian Tutt, 18, were arrested and charged with a March 31 robbery of the Giant store, 921 E. Main St., after a Montezuma County Sheriffs Office deputy stopped to make a purchase and caught the two men exiting the store.
Jims case went to trial, where he was found guilty. Tutts case is still pending.
Representing Jim at a September trial, defense attorney Stephen Wells argued that Jim played a lesser role in the robbery, by grabbing tobacco products while Tutt held the cashier at gunpoint and collected the money.
The key issue the jury faced in the case was complicity or guilt by participating in a crime.
Prosecuting the case, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Hughes had argued at trial that the two men acted as a single cohesive unit in committing the crime.
The jury sided with the prosecution and found Jim guilty.
Besides the tobacco products, approximately $160 and some rolled pennies were reported missing from the store.
In a preliminary hearing in May, Montezuma County Sheriffs Deputy Robert Dahlberg testified, saying he was eastbound on Main Street just after midnight March 31 when he pulled into the Giant gas station to make a purchase.
Dahlberg said he looked into the store and saw two subjects, one of whom was wearing a ski mask. The masked individual was holding a backpack in his hand and waving what appeared to be a gun in the other hand.
The deputy said the second subject, later identified as Jim, was closer to the door and exited the store and began walking toward the officer. Dahlberg said for his own safety, he ordered Jim to the ground, and the man complied.
The masked man, later identified as Tutt, then allegedly exited the store and also began walking toward Dahlberg, who ordered him to drop the backpack. Dahlberg alleged Tutt did not comply, and repeatedly reached for his rear waistband area.
Tutt eventually complied, Dahlberg said, and Cortez police arrived, allegedly locating a gun in Tutts right rear pocket as the two men were taken into custody.
In a security video shown in court, two individuals one in a black mask and the other in a hood entered the store. The subject in the black mask waved what appeared to be a gun at the clerk, who surrendered cash from the register drawer then got down on the floor as the men left the store.
Shown from another angle, the tall subject in the hood came around behind the counter, reached under the counter where tobacco is reportedly stored, returned to the other side of the counter, grabbed what appeared to be packs of cigarettes and left the store.
The gun allegedly located on Tutt was a revolver loaded with seven rounds and one empty chamber. Tutts next hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at District Court.
Reach Reid Wright at email@example.com.