SAGINAW, MI — Two summers ago, a Saginaw Township gun store was burglarized and 50 firearms were stolen. According to prosecutors, 36 of those weapons remain unaccounted for, and one was used in the fatal shooting of an 87-year-old woman.
Now, three teens charged with plotting and carrying out the burglary have pleaded guilty-as-charged to the combined 45 felonies against them. However, due to their ages, they may get the chance to avoid criminal records staining their futures, a leniency the prosecution is opposing.
The afternoon of Thursday, June 10, Remy M. Delgado, 18, Travontis D. Miller, 19, and Preston W. O’Leary, 19, appeared before Saginaw County Circuit Judge Andre R. Borrello and pleaded guilty to the same 15 felonies they each faced:
· Breaking and entering a building with intent to commit a larceny, a 15-year maximum.
· Conspiracy to commit breaking and entering with intent, a 15-year maximum.
· Three counts of larceny of a firearm, a five-year maximum.
· Conspiracy to commit larceny of a firearm, a five-year maximum.
· Three counts of receiving and concealing a stolen firearm, a 10-year maximum.
· Six counts of felony firearm, which comes with a mandatory minimum two years in prison consecutive to any related stint.
To establish their guilt, attorney Rico D. Neal asked the trio a series of yes-or-no questions. In answering, all three said they conspired to break into Showtime Guns & Ammo at 3621 Bay Road, carried their plan out on Aug. 2, 2019, stole numerous guns, and disposed of them.
Neal represents O’Leary, with defense attorneys Aaron Coltrane and Stephen A. Seman representing Delgado and Miller, respectively. They consented to Neal asking the questions to establish each defendant’s guilt.
Just before the defendants pleaded, Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Blair N. Stevenson objected to Borrello’s indication that he would give them Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) status at sentencing. The act allows a judge to place a defendant between the ages of 17 and 24 in jail or on probation without a conviction. If the defendant successfully completes the terms of the judge’s sentence, he or she avoids having a criminal record.
“In this case, the defendants stole 50 guns from Showtime Guns,” Stevenson said. “Fifty guns. Only 14 of those firearms have been recovered as of April 8 of this year. And no surprise, Judge, all of them have been found in the hands of convicted felons. In fact, one of those firearms was used in a homicide in December in which an 87-year-old grandmother was shot in the face and killed.”
The homicide Stevenson referred to is that of Bennie E. Scroggins, killed Dec. 12 in her home at 1510 Casimir St. Her 55-year-old grandson, Pearnell L. Scroggins, has been charged with open murder and three firearm offenses.
“I understand the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is used to give people a second chance,” Stevenson continued, “but, your Honor, we tried to give them a second chance. We tried to give these gentlemen the opportunity to help us recover these firearms from the streets of our community and they haven’t. We still have a lot guns out there and who knows how many more crimes are going to be committed with these stolen guns.”
Borrello replied he is not obligated to grant HYTA status at the time of sentencing. If he opts not to, the defendants will be allowed to withdraw their pleas.
The judge also said he has learned much in resentencing juvenile lifers in recent years. Juvenile lifers are convicts who were sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed when they were minor.
“It’s very clear science, evidence-based conclusions that the brain isn’t fully developed in young men until roughly around the age of the mid 20s,” Borrello said. “These gentlemen allegedly committed these crimes when they were teenagers, not even adults. If I learned one thing in handling juvenile lifers, it’s that we have to look at these things a little bit differently than we look at adults making the same poor decisions that these gentlemen may have made.”
Borrello went on to say a person with a felony on their record carries a stigma of that often leads to discrimination.
“I know, being a practicing attorney for employers, that quite frankly we just didn’t consider felons in the application process,” the judge said. “The bottom line is, those felonies stay with you, whether we agree or not, they stay with you. What we have here is a situation where despite the severity of the crimes … what overtakes that consideration is again the youth, the lack of brain development, especially decision-making process, and then you add on to that the stigma of a felon the rest of their lives potentially.”
Youth should be given a second chance, he said.
“Absolutely they must pay for and be held responsible for their crimes, but that doesn’t necessarily justify a quote-unquote life sentence to the stigma that attaches to having committed a felony, especially when you’re in your teen years.”
Miller remains in custody at the Saginaw County Jail, while Delgado and O’Leary are free on bond. Delgado and O’Leary’s advisory sentencing guidelines are five to 23 months, while Miller’s are 10 to 23 months.
Borrello is to sentence Delgado, Miller, and O’Leary at 3 p.m. on July 28.