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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two men jailed for crimes at casinos

Two men jailed for crimes at casinos
Charges include carjacking, robbery
Written by SEAN O'SULLIVAN The News Journal

WILMINGTON -- A pair of Wilmington men who preyed on senior citizens -- carjacking one they met at a casino, then using the stolen vehicle to drive to a second casino, where they stalked and robbed a couple -- were each sentenced to more than a decade in prison on Friday.

Eric Hill, 27 was sent to prison for 18 years and six months, and co-defendant Jerome Watkins, 26, received a sentence of 10 years and six months from Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins for their roles in a crime that got them about $32 cash.

According to attorneys, Hill and Watkins were gambling at Delaware Park on the afternoon of Sept. 16, 2010, trying to win enough money to bail a cousin out of prison. When the pair came up empty-handed, they instead set their sights on a 74-year-old man at the casino.

Hill and Watkins at first appeared to befriend the man, helping him walk to his vehicle and getting a ride from him, according to attorneys, only to later turn on him once they got to the man's Newark home, just after 3 p.m., taking his gold- colored minivan.

The pair then drove to Harrah's Casino in Chester, Pa., where they began to stalk an 84-year-old man, who was using a walker, and his 64-year-old wife.

Hill and Watkins apparently thought the couple had won money and followed them from the casino back to their Brandywine Hundred home in the stolen minivan. Once at the home, around 7 p.m., Watkins tackled the 64-year-old woman outside her front door while Hill threatened the 84-year-old man and rifled through his pockets as he helplessly watched his wife get assaulted, according to attorneys.

The two were caught when they returned to Harrah's and authorities recognized the stolen minivan. Watkins and Hill both later admitted to robbery, conspiracy and carjacking charges in plea deals.

In court, both men apologized for their actions. Hill claimed he was now "a new man, a man of God" who plans to do right when he returns to society.

Deputy Attorney General Abigail Layton did not ask for a specific sentence for Watkins but asked Parkins to incarcerate Hill for 40 years because of his lengthy criminal history that included previous crimes of violence against senior citizens.

She told Parkins the victimized couple was traumatized by the incident and have not been able to return to the casino since, depriving them of what they said was one of their few pleasures in retirement.

Layton concluded that a 40-year sentence would ensure that Hill was himself a senior citizen when he got out of prison.

Hill's attorney, Brian J. Chapman, argued his client had "good pieces," who despite his lengthy record had never served more than a year or two in prison prior to this incident.

Parkins told Watkins his crimes deserved no leniency, but later told Hill -- who was facing a minimum mandatory sentence of 13 years -- that he did not think a sentence of 40 years was appropriate, either.

Outside court, Chapman said he was disappointed by the disparity between the sentences given to Hill and Watkins.

Watkins' attorney, Ralph D. Wilkinson IV, declined comment outside court.
Layton said the state respected the court's rulings in the matter.

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