Diner robber sentenced to 11 years

Raymond Washington

WOODSTOCK — The third of four co-conspirators in the attempted robbery of Ben’s Diner in January was sentenced on Wednesday to serve 11 years and 3 months.

Raymond Lamar Washington, 28, pleaded guilty to several charges related to the offense in June, but asked to withdraw those pleas at a sentencing hearing that had been postponed. Washington’s attorney, Charles Ramsey, made a motion  Wednesday  to have those pleas withdrawn because the possibility of a not guilty by reason of insanity defense was revealed through information Washington divulged in the pre-sentence investigation report that he had not told his attorney. Ramsey added that it would be unjust to send a person with diagnosed mental illnesses to prison without at least exploring that defense.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued that Washington simply had “buyer’s remorse” regarding his pleas, and that was not cause to withdraw them. He also argued that when the court asked Washington at that June hearing if he had explored possible defenses with his attorney before entering the pleas, Washington answered affirmatively.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp denied the motion and said that the insanity plea was a “fantasy,” given that it was a planned robbery attempt and Washington has a long history in the criminal justice system.

Washington was given the opportunity to speak to the court regarding the motion, and said that he only pleaded guilty to avoid the jury trial because of the extensive media coverage of the crime and the racial makeup of the county, as stated at the last hearing. He gave that as the reason why he requested a location change for a jury trial when he asked to withdraw his plea. Washington also said that he entered his pleas not knowing that there was evidence to prove insanity, as his attorney had not gathered the documentation from the Roanoke Department of Social Services until it was time for sentencing. Hupp stood by his ruling, saying that Ramsey represented him effectively and that the evidence can be used to mitigate sentencing.

The sentencing guidelines in this case called for an active sentence of anywhere between eight years — a mandatory minimum for the gun charges in this case — and 11 years and three months. Campola argued for a sentence exceeding the guidelines, saying that Washington’s criminal history reads like the criminal section of the state’s code book. He said that Washington was the one with the gun who tried to rob some “hardworking teenagers,” and that in the ensuing incident he was driving as fast as 80 mph in a 25 mph zone, again putting lives in danger.

Ramsey argued that the mandatory minimum of eight years would be sufficient, given the five years he is already required to serve on the drug charges he was convicted of in February. He was on bond for those charges during the time of the robbery and was awaiting sentencing.

Ramsey noted that there was a lot about Washington that was relevant in this case that is not part of his criminal history, like how he had been in foster care since he was about 2 years old, and suffered injuries in a bathtub incident when he was only about 3 and in foster care. He added that Washington never spent more than one year in any home, which is a terrible way to grow up, but that does not erase his criminal history. Ramsey presented evidence that Washington suffers from multiple mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among several others.

Ramsey noted that Washington’s co-defendants received lesser sentences and his client should not have to serve twice as much time for a crime devised by one of the other defendants.

Washington used his right to speak to the court to explain that he’d never been one to blame others for what he’s been through and what he’s done, and that the prosecution never wanted to hear his side of the story but used his co-defendants’ stories against him.

“I just came in and did what I had to do as a man,” Washington told the court. “…I’m willing and able to stand in front of the court and say, ‘I took my responsibility.'”

Hupp noted that given the circumstances of the case, he could easily justify exceeding the guidelines, but that Washington’s extremely difficult childhood has had a long-lasting effect on him, so he decided to stay within the guidelines but at the high end. Hupp sentenced Washington to serve 11 years and three months of a 29-year sentence, and Washington must complete five years of supervised probation followed by five years of unsupervised probation.

Hupp also advised Washington that he has 30 days from the entry of the final order to appeal his ruling on the motion to withdraw the guilty pleas.

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