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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Teen Gets 118 Years

By Louis Hansen
The Virginian-Pilot
In one of his final acts in office, Gov. Bob McDonnell commuted to 40 years the sentence of Travion Blount, the Norfolk man convicted as a teen of armed robbery and originally sentenced to more than six life terms in prison.The partial pardon leaves Blount, now 23, with a chance for freedom, although his sentence is more than three times the length of his older co-defendants.Janet V. Kelly, secretary of the commonwealth under McDonnell, said the governor considered Blount's criminal history and conduct in prison. McDonnell believed a reduction to 40 years was a "just punishment," she said.Blount was 15 when he and two men robbed a house party. No shots were fired, and Blount injured no one. The men, both 18, pleaded guilty and received 10- and 13-year sentences. Blount went to trial and was sentenced to six life terms plus 118 years. It may be the longest sentence for a teen convicted of a crime not involving homicide.John Coggeshall, Blount's lawyer, said he was pleased and disappointed at the decision. "I'm pleased that, from now on, every waking moment of his life, Travion Blount knows he won't die in prison," he said. But family and advocates reacted to the news with shock, sadness and anger."Forty years. Wow. I mean, why?" his mother, Angela Blount, said.If Blount serves the minimum sentence, he will be about 50 when he is released. His parents would be in their 70s.Blount's legal team will continue to work through the courts and legislature to further reduce his sentence, Coggeshall said.Blount could also benefit from a bill introduced in the General Assembly, Coggeshall said. The proposal, authored by state Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, would allow a panel of judges to review sentences of juvenile offenders facing life for nonhomicide crimes after they have served at least 20 years. Blount is one of 22 Virginia inmates given life without parole for crimes not involving homicide.In September 2006, Blount and the two young men targeted an alleged drug dealer's home in Norfolk. The three arrived to find a house party with a dozen young people, some drinking and smoking marijuana. Blount and his friends pulled guns, stole small amounts of cash and weed, and drove away.They were quickly caught. Prosecutors offered Blount a minimum of an 18-year sentence if he agreed to plead guilty to some charges. His lawyer advised him to take the agreement. Blount refused, saying he did not commit every crime for which he was accused.Norfolk prosecutors charged him with four felonies for each victim. A jury convicted him of 49 felonies. His case was profiled in The Virginian-Pilot in November.An administration official said the story was immediately given to the governor. McDonnell and his staff were considering clemency before a formal petition was filed in late December. A review of Blount's record showed he had pleaded guilty to other robberies and later violated prison rules.Joe Dillard, president of the Norfolk chapter of the NAACP, said the organization wants Blount to receive a sentence similar to the co-defendants. Forty years is too long, he said. "We're not going to stop here."Supporters of Blount are planning a rally for him on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Norfolk.

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