EVERETT — Two teens went on the same armed robbery spree in south Everett.
One is serving a prison sentence of seven years.
The other was sentenced to 10 years of probation, with no time behind bars.
“It shows you how unfair the system can be,” said Oscar Corona-Medina’s public defender, David Roberson. “When presented with the same facts, two different judges can make two completely different decisions. The courts shouldn’t be that way.”
Corona-Medina and Chase Alexander, both then 19, pointed guns at four strangers in separate parked cars, demanding valuables over the course of about three hours in September 2018, according to court papers.
Both were charged with three counts of first-degree robbery and one count of attempted robbery.
Each young man claimed the spree was the other’s idea. In both cases, the charges brought by prosecutors were virtually the same.
Alexander hired a private defense attorney.
Corona-Medina was assigned a public defender.
Alexander posted $25,000 bail.
Corona-Medina struggled to come up with $100,000 in bond.
The young men had different prosecutors.
They were sentenced, in hearings two years apart, by different judges.
Around 3:40 a.m. Sept. 24, 2018, Alexander and Corona-Medina — in dark clothes, masks and gloves — got out of a dark Chevy Trailblazer and approached a car in the Anytime Fitness parking lot off 132nd Street SE in Everett, according to charging papers. They pointed realistic-looking BB guns at the occupant and demanded a laptop, cellphone and watch, the man reported to police.
A couple of hours later, around 5:30 a.m., a man in south Everett was waiting for his car to warm up outside a Fred Meyer when he saw a Trailblazer park near his car.
He heard a tap on his window, so he rolled it down halfway to see what the two teenagers outside wanted. Alexander and Corona-Medina brandished their guns, pressed a kitchen knife to the man’s throat, then seized the man’s wallet and cellphone, he told police.
Two miles away, in the Burlington Coat Factory parking lot, a woman sat in her car waiting to go to work. A young man got out of an SUV and approached her window at about 5:50 a.m., she told police. He was asking her for directions to I-5 when she saw a second young man exit the SUV. The teen asking for directions then pulled out a black handgun, pointed it at her head and demanded her wallet and phone.
The pair fled in the SUV.
About an hour later, they attempted to rob a fourth stranger in the Everett Costco parking lot. That heist was thwarted when one of their guns made contact with the car’s window and made an obvious plastic sound, a woman told police.
The woman told the two young men she knew their guns were fake. She said they pulled down their masks, said it was all a prank and left.
One of the victims pinged his stolen phone, and police located the Trailblazer outside Alexander’s home. Both teens were arrested.
Bail was set at $25,000 for both young men in Everett District Court.
Alexander posted that amount.
Corona-Medina’s bail was raised to $100,000 at arraignment. At 19, he didn’t have that kind of money.
One teen being in custody and one being out of jail influenced the differing outcomes, said Alexander’s attorney, Samantha Sommerman, of Mazzone Law.
Corona-Medina’s case resolved relatively fast as he sat behind bars. He pleaded guilty as charged in December 2018.
State guidelines suggested prison time within a range of 6½ to 8½ years. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas handed down a sentence near the middle of that range, in early 2019.
Corona-Medina has now served two years behind bars. His attorney said last week he was surprised to learn Alexander wasn’t sentenced to any time in prison, given his co-defendant’s sentence.
“It’s just two different judges — one that accepts the science about youthful criminal behaviors, and one that didn’t,” Roberson said. “Judge Lucas didn’t give it any weight.”
Alexander’s family also had money to hire a lawyer. His defense compiled a 64-page memorandum with psychological reports, character references and letters of support from family members.
“He would be quick to ask me if I needed help with carrying in groceries or other tasks when my own kids didn’t!” wrote a neighbor, whose son was close friends with Alexander.
“Putting together a package like the one we presented takes time. It takes effort,” Sommerman said. “That work is easier to do when your client is out of custody.”
Both Sommerman and Roberson said they believe Corona-Medina would be a good candidate for a resentencing petition, under a new state law that passed in 2020.
“I can tell you this (kind of unequal justice) is the part of the system that is terrible, in my opinion,” Sommerman said.
At Corona-Medina’s sentencing in 2019, nobody spoke on his behalf.
In contrast, more than 15 family members and friends filed into the courtroom last Monday afternoon to show support for Alexander, now 21, at his sentencing hearing.
A psychological examination by a defense expert indicated Alexander “tends to be impulsive, unsophisticated and immature in his social reasoning, judgment and decision-making skills. It is likely that these factors played a significant role in his behavior that night.”
The report also gave Alexander’s version of the crimes. He stated he was hallucinating on drugs that morning, seeing “waves of colors.”
Four family members fought tears as they addressed Superior Court Judge Jennifer Langbehn, urging her to be sympathetic.
“This young man made a damaging mistake — he was wrong,” said Joshua Kline, the defendant’s uncle. “But I’m begging you to see that sending a young man like Chase to prison will have no good, whatsoever, come out of it.”
The judge agreed, noting Alexander put himself in danger, too.
Langbehn advised Alexander “not to punish yourself, not to keep yourself in the prison of grief and remorse that your uncle referred to, but to help you as you move forward, as you move out of the home of your parents, out of the arms of those who are with you here today, and have to make more decisions for yourself.”
The judge ordered Alexander to serve 10 years on probation. He will be subject to random drug tests and other restrictions.
The defendant has “walked the path of the straight and narrow” ever since that morning, according to a memorandum from his attorney.
Alexander, a 2018 graduate of Henry M. Jackson High School, received a degree from Montana State University in 2020, while out on bail. He now works as a welder with Travis Industries, according to court documents.
Sommerman noted he had no criminal history until 2018.
“I think you can tell that Chase is a kind and good kid who is not very bright,” Sommerman said in court.
Deputy prosecutor Tyler Scott said in an interview Friday that such a large disparity in sentences was “unusual.” He maintained that both young men deserved years behind bars, within the state standard.
“One of the glaring differences,” Scott said, “is that one had a public defender, and one had a private attorney.”
Immaturity, Sommerman argued, prevented Alexander from knowing the wrongfulness of his actions. She said he was induced to commit the crimes by Corona-Medina.
Corona-Medina’s attorney argued it was actually Alexander who persuaded the other teen robber.
Corona-Medina had no criminal record before the arrest, too.
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen.