A 21-year-old Pasco man's parents told a judge that they believe their son has the call of God in his life, but an addiction to heroin led him astray.
Angus Michael Tate was in Franklin County Superior Court to be sentenced for attempted first-degree robbery, and his mother, Kathryn Tate, told Judge Craig Matheson that she wanted to make sure he understood her son.
"This is truly heartbreaking to us," said Kathryn Tate, with her husband, Anthony, by her side. "We've been to see him (in jail) every Sunday. We're coming to terms with the good and bad of this situation because there is some good to it."
Kathryn Tate said her son is a kind, unique person who has a heart of gold, is gifted in music and art and has leadership qualities.
He was serious about his faith and active with a youth group, but got involved with the wrong crowd in high school after his friends from church moved away.
"I'm not making excuses into his behavior, but wanted to give you insight," she said. "He made a bad decision as a minor. ... We firmly believe that Angus has the call of God in his life. By God's mercy and grace we believe Angus can beat this addiction."
Angus Tate was arrested in May after he tried to rob Mr. Qwik's gas station. He pointed a gun at the clerk and demanded cash, but left before getting any money when the clerk ran into the office and said he was calling police, documents said.
The clerk, Jose Torres, gave police a license plate number and description of a van Tate left in, and about 25 minutes later officers spotted it in the 200 block of South 24th Street.
The plates on the van were stolen, but Tate was in the process of changing the license plate back to the legitimate plate when he was arrested.
In court, Tate apologized to the judge, his family and the victim and said he never had any intention of hurting anyone.
"I understand I made a huge mistake and what I did was wrong," he told Matheson. "The last couple of years I was battling an addiction to heroin and I tried to get treatment. ... The addiction had taken me to a dark place in my life. I'm ready to man-up and take responsibility for my crime."
Deputy Prosecutor Dave Corkrum recommended the bottom of the sentencing range of about two years in prison. Because Tate had no criminal history, the maximum time he could receive was about 21/2 years.
"This appears to be the defendant's first felony conviction. It appears he has a drug problem," Corkrum said.
Tate originally was charged with first-degree robbery, but Corkrum said he agreed to amended it to attempted robbery after talking to the clerk. "There was no property taken, but in reality he committed assault when he pointed the gun at the clerk," he said.
Defense attorney Todd Harms said his client has been a good kid and student until he went to Pasco High and started using heroin. Before the robbery attempt, Tate had applied to a long-term drug treatment program, but was waiting to get accepted.
"When all this happened, Angus was withdrawing," Harms said. "At the time, this felt like a life or death situation for him. He felt like he needed to ... deal with the withdrawals, he needed money."
Harms said Tate went through his family's belongings, found a pistol and in a "tortured logic" came up with the idea to rob a convenience store to solve his problem.
"He recognizes the seriousness of what he did. He's never made an excuse," Harms said. "He knows he's going to get a stiff sentence. He's prepared for it."
Several letters in support of Tate were provided to Matheson, who encouraged Tate to read the letters and to write thank you notes to the writers.
Matheson also told Tate that he got a good deal in his case because first-degree robbery with a firearm is "one of the most serious offenses and often times these behaviors end up in a homicide."
Matheson agreed to follow the recommendation and said Tate should take advantage of his family support to move forward from this.
"Anybody who faces tragedy in their lives or a difficult situation, the real mark is how they respond to it ..." the judge said. "These armed robberies are a very serious offense. I think you have owned up to it ... but I really want you to make sure that during the next few years you figure out what's wrong and fix it so you don't have any more problems. ... I suspect you have all that you need to put this behind you."