Ahkeem Simmons with his attorney, Charles Brant, Brittany Patterson with her attorney, Anton Rowe, and Jazmine Washington with her attorney, Pamela Stephenson, as the trio plead out their charges Friday morning before Clayton County Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield in the June 2012 robbery of Joe’s Crab Shack in Morrow. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Three co-defendants in the June 2012 armed robbery of Joe’s Crab Shack “dodged a bullet” after cooperating with the state against four accomplices, a judge told them Friday.
Clayton County Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield sentenced Brittany Darcia Patterson, 22, of Decatur, Jazmine Latisha Washington, 23, of Lithonia and Ahkeem Rashiid Simmons, 24, of Atlanta for their roles in the robbery.
Assistant District Attorney Travis Meyer said Simmons was recruited as the driver and the women acted as lookouts from the parking lot of nearby AMC Theater.
The three testified against four others, one who was a hostess at the popular Morrow restaurant, and the three men who robbed seven of her fellow employees at gunpoint.
“I think you all dodged a bullet here, basically, I really do,” Benefield said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, particularly if you are related or the people involved are known to have guns but you testified against them anyway.”
All three pleaded to seven counts of aggravated assault with intent to rob and the state dropped the rest of the 50 charges facing them. The women pleaded under the First Offender Act so won’t be adjudicated guilty unless they violate the terms of their sentences. If they successfully complete their sentences, their records will be expunged.
Patterson will serve 15 years on probation and Washington will serve 10 years. Both women will complete 120 hours of community service, stay away from the other co-defendants and Joe’s Crab Shack, and follow a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew for a maximum of 12 months.
Simmons was sentenced to 10 years, to serve three in prison, and was also ordered to stay away from the other accomplices and Joe’s Crab Shack. He will also complete theft prevention classes.
Meyer said Shakrystin Brinae Brown, 22, of Jonesboro, worked as a hostess at the Morrow restaurant and faked being a victim during the robbery. He said Brown planned the robbery with her relatives — Patterson and Dantarrel Deandre Ray, 26, of Atlanta.
Brown, Ray, Jonathan Keith Hammonds, 24, of Ellenwood and Alex Donavan Randell, 21, of Decatur went on trial Oct. 14 but Hammonds took a plea deal Oct. 18 before the trial ended, Meyer said.
Hammonds pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and seven of aggravated assault. He was sentenced by Benefield to 50 years, to serve 30 in prison.
When the jury returned with a verdict Oct. 21, Brown, Ray and Randell were found guilty of 12 counts of aggravated assault, seven counts each of armed robbery, false imprisonment, pointing a pistol at another and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and one count of felony theft by taking.
Brown, Ray and Hammonds are to be sentenced Nov. 15 and face multiple life terms.
“I’m getting ready to sentence the others in a couple of weeks,” Benefield said. “They’re facing more life sentences than anyone can hardly count.”
Compounding the situation for Brown is the fact she is pregnant, she said.
“She is pregnant and going to prison,” Benefield said. “It’s a horrible situation. This is a bunch of young people making a really terrible decision. On the other side, you’ve got people on the job, closing up, getting ready to go home and these other people coming running in with guns.”
As serious as the crimes were and as much time as the three faced, Benefield said she is satisfied with the deal offered by the state.
“I think it’s appropriate given what you did and how you did it,” she said. “I think it’s appropriate or I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Meyer agreed, telling Benefield that, without the cooperation of the three — who admitted their roles and identified the other four — the police would have had a hard time putting a case together.
If the women violate their First Offender status, they can be sent to prison for years. Benefield said she hopes the three will learn a lesson.
“It’s real important to make the right decisions each and every day,” she said. “If you do anything, new offenses, anything, I will take it seriously. This is your opportunity to say ‘This was really stupid and I’ll never do it again.’ It will end in tragedy if you don’t decide at this moment to never do this again.”
The defendants nodded their heads in agreement but none chose to speak. Washington’s attorney, Pamela Stephenson, said her client wrote a letter of apology months ago and stands by her words.
“She appreciates the First Offender status and probation,” Stephenson said.
Meyer said the seven expected to split about $70,000 but ended up with about $1,500 in cash and a handful of cellphones.