Teenage trick-or-treat robbers get 31-, 26-year sentences

Use of gun during 4 holdups triggers mandatory time

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Tacoma — Zyion Houston-Sconiers and Treson Roberts robbed Tacoma trick-or-treaters of 96 pieces of candy, a cellphone and a devil mask last Halloween.

It couldn't have been worth it.

On Friday, Pierce County Superior Court sentenced the teens to prison terms of 31 and 26 years, respectively, for the robbery spree.

And it could have been worse.

Prosecutors recommended to Judge John Hickman that neither teen be sentenced for their underlying crimes — multiple counts of robbery — but serve only the mandatory sentencing enhancements for using a gun during the crimes.

"The rationale for this recommendation is based simply on the state's assessment that a 42-to-45-year sentence for Houston-Sconiers and a 37-to-40-year sentence for Roberts is perhaps excessive, although reasonable people could differ," deputy prosecutor Gregory Greer wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Greer's decision, and Hickman's acceptance of it, saved both defendants about 10 years in prison.

Deputy prosecutor Jesse Williams argued Friday the defendants still deserved a lengthy prison term.

"These are extremely serious and egregious crimes," Williams told Hickman. People feared for their lives that night because the defendants decided to rob them, the deputy prosecutor said.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Houston-Sconiers, 18, and Roberts, 17, were among a group of teens who held up four groups of trick-or-treaters during 78 minutes of Halloween night 2012. The robbers brandished a .22-caliber pistol, police said.

Two co-defendants escaped prosecution when they agreed to testify against Houston-Sconiers and Roberts. A fifth defendant pleaded guilty in juvenile court to robbery.

Houston-Sconiers was 17 when arrested and Roberts 16, but prosecutors decided to try them as adults.

Last month, a jury convicted them of multiple counts of robbery and assault, and, importantly, found that they'd been armed with a gun while committing those crimes. Mandatory gun sentencing enhancements attached to those convictions totaled 372 months for Houston-Sconiers and 312 months for Roberts.

Defense attorney Barbara Corey, who represented Houston-Sconiers, accused prosecutors of piling on charges and the related gun enhancements after her client decided to go to trial.

Houston-Sconiers apologized for his actions that night, saying he was sorry he scared the victims and let down his friends and family.

"I messed up," he told Hickman. "I'm here to take responsibility and ask for your mercy."

Defense attorney Chip Mosley, who represented Roberts, then took his turn.

Mosley, too, bemoaned the fact that the law gives judges no discretion when it comes to imposing gun sentencing enhancements. He argued that his client was not one of the prime actors during the robberies and that 26 years seemed like a long time for a hanger-on.

Roberts spoke briefly and apologized to the victims.

Hickman said he was sympathetic to a degree but that there was nothing he could do but accept Greer's recommendation.

Still, he said, Houston-Sconiers and Roberts used a gun to rob "innocent minor children of Halloween candy and cellphones." Their actions further eroded society's sense of well-being and added an element of fear to a childhood rite — trick-or-treating on Halloween — that should be a time of fun, he said.