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Iowa 17-year-old gets suspended sentence, probation for role in robbery that led to officer’s beating

Trish Mehaffey, CR Gazette –

A 17-year-old involved in a 2009 robbery, in which Cedar Rapids police officer Tim Davis was seriously injured by another man, received a suspended sentence and probation Tuesday after successfully completing time at the Boy’s Training School in Eldora.

Robert Watkins, who turns 18 next week, said Tuesday he has matured since he committed the crime at age 14 and has “grown stronger in the Lord. If he can forgive me, anyone can.”

Watkins said he looks at life differently now.

“I’ve grown up,” Watkins said. “I want to be a better man and a better person.”

Watkins received a deferred sentence in August 2009 for first-degree robbery and interference with official acts causing serious injury. Watkins, along with Maurice Harden, now 17, robbed David Scanlon and Austin Switalski, both of Cedar Rapids, March 29, 2009.

Cedar Rapids Officer Tim Davis, 33, responded to that robbery later that day, and was beaten unconscious by another robbery suspect, Jose Rockiett, now 20, of Cedar Rapids, who was with Watkins and Harden. Rockiett hit Davis in the head with the butt of a weapon. Watkins and Harden ran away and were later arrested.

Watkins also received a deferred sentence for assault causing bodily injury, a misdemeanor, in another case. That judgement was discharged Tuesday. On the same day of the robbery, Watkins was charged for hiting Jacob Kimpton, 9, of Cedar Rapids, and breaking his nose.

Watkins apologized to Tim Davis and his now ex-wife, Stephanie Davis, during the hearing for his part in the crime and asked Stephanie Davis, who attended the hearing, to forgive him.

In a victim’s impact statement, Stephanie Davis told Watkins she would never forgive him or forget, “but I’m ready to move on.”

She told Watkins he took something from her family, but she wants to move forward and hopes to some day be able to drive down First Avenue NE, where the incident happened, and not think about this crime.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill said the court had three options – suspend the sentences, give him jail time or continue to defer his sentence, but he felt suspending the sentences and five years probation time was the best option.

Thornhill said Watkins’ attitude has changed and he has become more focused and has matured but he needs supervision to continue his success.

Watkins will remain at a residence shelter, in custody, until he turns 18 on June 14. His probation will then begin.

Thornhill also expanded the no-contact orders for the Davises and robbery victims for five years.

Harden also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and interference with official acts causing serious injury and received a deferred sentence. His sentences were also suspended, and he received five years’ probation in April.

Rockiett, now 20, was convicted in 2010 of first-degree robbery, willful injury causing serious injury and interference with official acts causing serious injury and/or while displaying a dangerous weapon. He is serving a 25-year prison term.

Davis returned to full-time patrol by himself last December after more than two years. Davis suffered a fractured skull and severe brain swelling from the assault.

Doctors initially gave Tim Davis a slim chance to live. He spend 39 days in the hospital. The assault left him with short-term memory loss and made problem-solving difficult, according to family and co-workers. It also changed his personality.

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