Thursday, May 3, 2012

KCK man sentenced to eight years in prison for robbery of KU student

By GEORGE DIEPENBROCK, The Lawrence Journal-World

A Douglas County judge Thursday sentenced a 21-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man to serve eight years in prison for a robbery at gunpoint of a Kansas University student.

Michael A. Howard last year pleaded no contest to one count of robbery. He was accused of coming to Lawrence one night in December 2010 and taking part in a crime spree with two co-defendants, Ashley C. Johnson and Raymond C. Morgan, who both have entered pleas related to the case.

Howard originally faced two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated battery, one count of criminal possession of a firearm and one count of conspiracy.

During an October preliminary hearing, prosecutors accused Howard of using a gun to rob the male KU student Dec. 28, 2010, as the KU student was walking in an alley in the 300 block of West 12th Street.

Through circumstantial evidence, prosecutors initially also accused him of punching a 22-year-old female KU student in the face and robbing her about 1:15 a.m. Dec. 29 as she was walking in the 800 block of Tennessee Street. The woman suffered a concussion and three facial fractures.

Prosecutors said Howard’s no-contest plea in December was only for the 12th Street robbery but that Howard gave a detailed statement to a Lawrence police detective about the incident with the woman.

Defense attorney Craig Stancliffe said Thursday that Howard has indicated he was responsible for the robbery of the male student, but that Howard denied being involved and said he was not present when the woman was injured and robbed later.

Stancliffe also said Howard suffers from a mental illness.

Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple said prosecutors believe Howard gave a truthful statement to police about the crimes that night, but it didn’t yield evidence consistent with Johnson’s statement to be able to prosecute anyone else for the woman’s injury.

Morgan pleaded last week to conspiracy for being inside the car during the robbery.

His sentencing is scheduled for June 7.

District Judge Michael Malone did agree to shave two years from Howard’s sentence because of his cooperation in the case. Howard also must register as a violent offender when he’s released from prison because the robbery involved a firearm.