Man sentenced up to 10 years in prison for graduation party robbery
Courtesy of WCSO
The 35-year-old Ypsilanti Township man accused of robbing a graduation party last summer was sentenced in the Washtenaw County Trial Court Monday to up to 10 years in prison.
Javon Hurston was sentenced by Judge Darlene O'Brien to 35 months to five years in prison for a count of felon in possession of a weapon. Hurston also was sentenced 24 months to two years on a count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana and assault with a dangerous weapon. Those terms will run concurrently.
Running consecutively to those counts, but at the same time as each other, were sentences of 35 months to five years for carrying a concealed weapon and two years for felony firearm.
Hurston pleaded no contest to the charges last month. Thirteen counts will be dismissed, including seven counts of armed robbery, five counts of assault with intent to rob while armed and one count of first-degree home invasion.
What exactly happened the night of June 4, 2012 in the 2100 block of Golfside Drive in Ypsilanti Township was up for debate at the sentencing. Hurston's court-appointed attorney, Erika Julien, called the case "a hot mess."
The police report indicated Hurston and a second, unidentified man ended up at a graduation party inside an apartment where they robbed a dozen or so people of drugs, money, cellphones and jewelry at gunpoint, according to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. There were reports of the two men telling partygoers to strip, though there was no indication anyone was forced to take their clothes off, police said. Police also were told people at the party jumped off a second-floor balcony to escape.
Court proceedings Monday revealed a much hazier situation that may have been racially-charged. The prosecution and defense admitted that some of the information gleaned from witnesses in the police report was contradicted at the preliminary hearing and some of the people at the party exaggerated the events to "make it sound worse than it was," Julien said.
"This case was ... completely jacked up," Julien added. "This was a party full of drunk kids. Their testimony was all over the place."
Julien and Hurston painted a different picture of the night, saying Hurston was hanging around outside the apartment complex selling weed with the other man when two girls came down to get money from their car.
Julien told O'Brien the two young women were getting the money to buy marijuana from someone at the party when they encountered Hurston and the other man. The girls invited the two men up to the party.
"Javon was really nervous about it," Julien said.
Hurston is biracial, a category that was added when he objected to merely being checked off as black on the sentencing report. The other man was black.
Some people at the party seemed to object to Hurston and the other man being invited up, Julien told the court. When the second man was accused of stealing cell phones, a particularly intoxicated man at the party took his belt off and wrapped it around his fist in a threatening manner, according to Julien. That's when the second man, not Hurston, made a joke that the whole party would be naked before he left.
"It had nothing to do with (getting) down on the ground and get naked, we're robbing you," Julien said.
Hurston said the people at the party started calling him and the other man a racial epithet.
"This was a racial profiling case," he said. "I don't want to be labeled a monster."
The second man eventually grabbed the gun out of Hurston's coat and showed it to the partygoers, Julien said. The night ended with the two men not fleeing the scene, but peacefully walking away.
Police recovered some of the stolen cellphones nearby later that morning. A ring also was found with the phones and was later linked to Hurston, police said.
Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brenda Taylor acknowledged there were some issues with the case, especially some of the testimony from the young adults at the party, but pointed out that items reported stolen eventually were recovered near a home where Hurston's father lives.
"He (was) a 35-year-old man at a high school graduation party," Taylor said. "It's not appropriate."
Taylor also pointed out Hurston has a long criminal history including 20 misdemeanor and four felony convictions for a multitude of drug, assault, resisting arrest and domestic violence offenses.
He was convicted of misdemeanor aggravated domestic violence for an offense that occurred two days after the graduation party.
"I think that Mr. Hurston needs to be in prison for what he did," she said.