WILLMAR -- Despite pleas for leniency from his mother and attorney, Brian John Dewane, 26, of Willmar, was sentenced Monday to 41 months in prison for his role in the armed robberies of two Willmar convenience stores.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court. Dewane must also pay $1,966 in restitution -- jointly with Dustin Stanley Streich, 20, of Willmar -- as well as a $50 fine. He was given eight days of jail credit toward his time on the first-degree charge for aiding and abetting aggravated robbery.
Before the sentence was handed down, Marcia Dewane, the defendant's mother, told Spilseth that prison was not the best answer for her son, whom she said sustained a traumatic brain injury and wasn't taking his medication at the time of the robberies.
"There is a good person in there," she said. "Putting him in prison will harden a young man that has a chance not to go that route."
John Holbrook, Dewane's public defender, asked the judge to stay the prison time and put him on probation, with harsh terms to be enacted if Dewane violated the probation.
"I believe that this is a young man who is not going to disappoint the court," Holbrook said, adding that his client took a more passive role in the robberies.
Given his opportunity to speak, Dewane said he didn't want to justify what he did, and that he knew it was wrong. "I really do apologize," he said.
The pleas were not enough for the dispositional departure, or lighter sentence, to be granted, Spilseth said. He noted that case involved terrible crimes, with guns pointed at people, including a young woman who was at one of the stores to clean the restrooms.
"You are an adult now, you are expected to make better decisions," Spilseth told Dewane.
Streich pleaded guilty Jan. 16 to a felony charge of aggravated robbery. He will be sentenced Feb. 27. Both men faced five other felony aggravated robbery and assault charges, along with a gross misdemeanor charge for theft, which were dismissed in plea agreements.
The charges are in connection to the June 26 robbery of the Holiday Station store along Litchfield Avenue Southwest and the July 17 robbery of the Tesoro station along the 3000 block of First Avenue Northwest.
According to the complaint, a Willmar police officer was dispatched June 26 to the Holiday Station. The clerk said a man brandished a semiautomatic handgun and asked for money and cigarettes to be put into a bag. She described the man as between 20 and 30 years of age and 150 to 160 pounds. She said he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, jean shorts and white socks and shoes. He made off with $220 in cash and $167 worth of cigarettes.
Police interviewed a witness who said he had been out on his porch and had seen a vehicle park just down the street from the Holiday Station. He said the car's lights were off but that the engine was running and the driver remained in the car.
The witness also said a man approached the passenger side of the vehicle with something in his arms and that the car drove off eastbound on Highway 12.
Local officers worked with officials from Sauk Rapids during the investigation. A Holiday store in that community, which is 45 minutes from Willmar, had also been robbed.
In that case, two armed suspects entered the store and took cash and cigarettes. The clothing and description of one of the suspects matched Streich. The other suspect appeared to be a black male.
Investigators also used security footage from the Kandiyohi County Courthouse, as Streich was in the building on either June 26 or 27. He was identified by courthouse personnel. The person in the video appeared to be the same person caught on tape in the Sauk Rapids robbery.
Police were dispatched to the Tesoro station around 10 p.m. July 17 on a report that the store had been robbed at gunpoint. The owner said a white male, dressed in black, held him up for money and cigarettes, totaling $480 in value.
In both robberies, customers in the stores gave police descriptions of the suspects, said the man had pointed the gun at them and told them to move to where they could be seen and not to talk.
Officers had suspected Streich and Dewane and went to a Willmar home where both were living. Both were arrested after a search warrant was executed and officers found sweatshirts that matched those worn by the robbers in the security videos, two carbon dioxide-powered pistols, cartons of cigarettes, ski masks and cash.