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Randall v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

July 27, 2017

GEORGE RANDALL, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 177th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1501967

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Donovan and Wise.

          OPINION

          KEN WISE JUSTICE.

         Appellant pleaded guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity predicated on multiple robberies. See Tex. Penal Code § 71.02(a)(1). The trial court assessed punishment and sentenced him to twenty-five years' confinement. In a single issue, appellant contends that under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, his sentence is grossly disproportionate to the sentences of his co-defendants and his involvement in the offense. We affirm.

         I. Background

         At the sentencing hearing, the trial court admitted without objection the pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report and the State's memorandum on punishment. According to the documents, appellant was an "upper mid-level" member of a combination. See Tex. Penal Code § 71.01(a) (defining "combination" for purposes of the offense as "three or more persons who collaborate in carrying on criminal activities"). By the time of sentencing, the State had charged twenty-one members of the combination with criminal offenses.

         The combination is a violent and highly organized group of aggravated robbers known as "All Bout Money, ABM, and 300 Audrey Lane." The combination focuses on armed robberies of cell phone stores to obtain new high-end cell phones, and the combination also participates in burglaries and thefts.

         The State connected appellant to three aggravated robberies at Radio Shack, Verizon, and Sprint stores. During the Radio Shack robbery, appellant and two others entered the store with a gun. During the Verizon and Sprint robberies, appellant served as a getaway driver. While fleeing the Sprint robbery, appellant led the police on a high-speed chase through residential neighborhoods. After two of the tires on the getaway car blew out and one came off, appellant fled on foot until he was apprehended by a K-9 unit.

         The PSI report indicated that appellant had received deferred adjudication in a prior offense of possession of marijuana in a drug free zone, and another charge of possession of a controlled substance was dismissed. The State adduced evidence of appellant's school records, showing many disciplinary actions; several incidents involved violence against other students. The court also admitted surveillance videos of the Verizon and Sprint robberies, showing the gunmen interacting with employees and customers. A Sprint store employee testified about the impact on the employees and the business from the various robberies at the stores.

         Appellant adduced supportive testimony from his mother and grandfather. The trial court admitted letters of support from about two dozen people.

         After the trial court denied appellant's request for probation and sentenced him to twenty-five years' confinement, appellant filed a motion for new trial. In one of the grounds, appellant alleged that his sentence was "grossly disproportionate to the crime committed and to that of his co-defendants." After a hearing, the trial court overruled the ground concerning a grossly disproportionate sentence and the other ground presented in the motion.

         II. Analysis

         Appellant contends that his sentence should be vacated because it is "grossly disproportionate to that of his co-defendants and to his involvement in the case."[1]

         The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment requires that punishment be graduated and proportioned to the offense. State v. Simpson, 488 S.W.3d 318, 322 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). But this narrow principle does not require strict proportionality between the crime and sentence. Id. "Rather, it forbids only extreme sentences that are 'grossly ...


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