Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Joseph Ankeney was not alone when he broke into an Alamosa home last July and assaulted the man who lived there.
But of the four people who were charged in connection with the crime, he’s the only one to date who has taken responsibility for his actions.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Michael Gonzales took that fact into consideration on Monday as he sentenced the 21-year-old Denver man to 12 years in state prison.
Ankeney, who pleaded guilty in March to criminal attempt to commit aggravated robbery, could have faced a maximum potential penalty of 16 years behind bars.
But Judge Gonzales said the defendant’s willingness to understand the seriousness of his actions is the one thing that kept the court from imposing a harsher sentence.
“The benefit for you so far is that you seem to recognize this,” he said.
By entering the plea of convenience, Ankeney avoided the possibility of being convicted of far more serious offenses.
Prosecutors originally charged him with first-degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a stun gun, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft.
Under a plea deal, however, they dismissed those counts with prejudice; they also agreed not to file any additional charges connected to a second crime that Ankeney allegedly committed last summer.
The district attorney’s office made similar offers to co-defendants Mario Aragon, David Cordova and Colin Young. But so far, none of the others have reached conclusive deals.
Police allege that all four suspects broke into a couple’s State Avenue home last July and demanded their money, electronics and drugs.
The male victim in the case said the assailants threatened to kill him if he didn’t cooperate.
While Cordova allegedly restrained the woman, the man told police that the other assailants used a stun gun on him. Young also struck him several times with a metal hammer, he said.
The tables turned when the male victim gained control of the hammer and hit Young, sending his alleged attacker to a Lakewood hospital for treatment of severe injuries. Police apprehended the other three suspects, including Ankeney, moments after they allegedly fled the scene.
Both Aragon and Cordova allegedly told police that all four assailants conspired to rob the male victim. According to an official report on the incident, they said they planned to steal one of the man’s vehicles and then drive it to Denver, where they would meet to disperse the items they’d stolen.
Judge Gonzales said there was no doubt in his mind that Ankeney knew what he was doing that day. He told the defendant that the 12-year sentence will send the message that the court will not tolerate such behavior.
“This is the kind of offense that rocks the core of any community,” he said.
Residents deserve to know that they will be safe once they close their doors at night, he said.
In this case, however, the main victim may never get over the mental pain he’s experiencing as a result of the incident.
“He has a lot to overcome,” the judge said.
The man told the court that his life will never be the same again.
His assailants tried to take everything that he’s worked his whole life to acquire, and they beat him down as though they didn’t care if he survived, he said.
Since the attack, he moved from his 2,000-square-foot home into a trailer, living in fear and going through a difficult period of recovery. His children, likewise, grew so fearful that they moved away from the community, taking his grandchildren with them.
After everything he’s been through, the victim doesn’t think that money could repair the damages.
The man could think of only one appropriate punishment: He urged the court to impose the maximum possible sentence.
“I don’t think they deserve to be on the street again,” the man said.
“I’m just asking the court to give them everything they’ve got coming,” he said later. “What they did was the most horrible thing a person can do.”
Soon after he was done speaking, Ankeney’s mother Judy turned to face him, and then apologized for her son’s actions.
“I, too, believe that people should have the right to safety in their own home,” she said.
Having said that, she urged the court to take his age into consideration.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins told the court that Ankeney is still grappling with his actions. He understands that they affected not only the main victims, but the community as a whole, she said.
However, she told the judge that there are some distinctions between her client and his alleged conspirators. Unlike them, Ankeney did not bring weapons to the scene. Nor did he attempt to use them, she said.
Hopkins also asked the court to consider scientific research on the still-developing brains of young criminals, and noted that Ankeney has been institutionalized for much of his young life.
“No one made any attempt to find out what happened to this young man,” Hopkins said.
Instead, she said, they threw him to the wolves.
Judge Gonzales said he understands that Ankeney has lived a difficult life.
Still, he said he believes that children learn the differences between right and wrong at an early age.
The judge ultimately gave Ankeney credit for 258 days served, and ordered his sentence to run consecutively with the remainder of an Arapahoe County term. Once he’s released from prison, he will be required to serve three years of mandatory parole.
At this point, it’s unclear if Ankeney will have to pay restitution to the victims in the case. The district attorney’s office will have 90 days from Monday to submit its request.