Teen pleads guilty to attempted armed robbery
By Melanie Ruberti
An 18-year-old man and alleged gang member pleaded guilty in a Troup County Superior Courtroom Monday morning.
Derrean Demetrius Tucker was accused of attempting to rob two Hispanic men in the front yard of their home in August 2016.
He was originally charged with eight counts of violating the street gang terrorism and prevention act, criminal attempted armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony crime.
The state dropped two counts of violating the street gang terrorism and prevention act and the aggravated assault charge as part of a plea deal with Tucker.
In return, the teen entered a non-negotiated plea, which left the sentencing up to presiding Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer.
According to Troup County Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne, Tucker was one of six men who approached the victims in the 200 block of Cherry Street that August night.
One suspect pulled a gun and demanded money from the two victims, Winne said.
When the two Hispanic men told the group they did not have any money, the suspects began to beat them.
The victims fought back. When the suspects fled the scene, the two men followed them to a home also on Cherry Street, the prosecutor said.
LaGrange police officers surrounded the house and arrested three men – including Tucker. LPD investigators learned Tucker lived in that home. They also recovered the gun used in the crime, Winne said.
The teen is a member of the Piru set of the Bloods criminal street gang, Winne told the court.
He reportedly planned the crime and targeted the two Hispanic men with other gang members through a series of social media messages.
“In these Facebook messages, he says to other Bloods, ‘Where the licks at?’ Licks are slang for robberies,” Winne said. “After he was caught, Mr. Tucker did admit to being a part of this (crime) but would not name his co-conspirators … he is so committed to the gang lifestyle. All the co-defendants are members of the Piru Bloods. Four suspects were caught, but he (Tucker) has allowed at least one maybe two to escape justice from the armed robbery.
“The state would ask you to send a message with this case,” Winne told Judge Palmer. “This case is symptomatic of the gangs that are terrorizing our community with their violence … We need to send a message to others who may want to go out and commit these crimes that you won’t get away with it.”
The prosecutor also said Tucker had an extensive juvenile criminal history.
He recommended Tucker be sentenced to 15 years behind bars with a “lengthy probation.”
But the teen’s defense attorney, Barry Debrow, told the court the state’s recommendation for his client was excessive.
“Mr. Tucker was the first one (suspect) to accept responsibility for the crime,” Debrow said. “ … The state is asking 15 years from a kid who was only 17 years old when he committed this crime. That’s a substantial amount of time … He’s not a leader of the gang, he was just hanging around with the wrong crowd.”
Debrow claimed Tucker and his family were threatened if the teen identified the other suspects.
The defense attorney asked Palmer to sentence his client to 20 years to serve five years behind bars.
Tucker also addressed the court.
“I am incarcerated for making the wrong decision and hanging around with the wrong crowd,” he said. “I’m saying I’m sorry to the victims, to the community and to my family. My mother didn’t raise me to act like this. Your Honor, I wanted to get my GED and CDL license. I want to learn from my mistakes.”
While Judge Palmer showed some sympathy to Tucker, he sided with the prosecution’s argument for sentencing.
“I think if we tried this case and the facts came out the way state suggested, I would impose a stiff sentence,” Palmer said. “But I do give him (Tucker) some credit for admitting to his role in the crime.”
The judge gave Tucker a net sentence of 30 years to serve 12 years behind bars.
If the case had gone to trial, the 18 year old faced a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison.
Tyree Williams, Preston White and an unidentified juvenile were also charged in the crime.
Williams pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years behind bars.
The unidentified youth was sentenced in the Troup County Juvenile court system.
The case against White is still pending.
Two other suspects at the crime scene have not been caught.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.