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Robber in shooting gets 25 years

No mandatory minimum set, due to his age

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Tate Martinson, now 18, reads a lengthy statement to the court Thursday before his sentence is pronounced for his role in the first-degree robbery of Mohammed Yaqoub. Police allege Yaqoub was shot by Martinson’s co-defendant, Damion Chavez, in a transaction for a pound of marijuana they both went into penniless.

A robber in a drug deal gone wrong that left a man dead last October was sentenced to prison for a term potentially longer than he’s been alive.

Tate Martinson, the juvenile who pleaded guilty to the first-degree robbery that preceded the October 2019 shooting in the 1400 block of A Street, was sentenced to an indeterminate term of up to 25 years in prison Thursday.

The sentence handed down by District Court Judge Angela Doyle came after a carefully weighed sentencing hearing that’s required specially for offenders who are juveniles at the time of their offenses. Due to his age at the time of the offense, Doyle did not impose a mandatory minimum that would normally be served prior to eligibility for parole.

Martinson was five days shy of his 17th birthday when he went penniless into a robbery for a pound of marijuana behind Tom Thumb in October 2019. The one selling the pot, 28-year-old Mohammed Yaqoub of South Dakota, was left dead in the car where the exchange happened. Martinson’s co-defendant, Damion Chavez, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting.

After over three hours of testimony from a forensic psychologist and Martinson’s family members, the weight of the sentence was delivered to an emotionally fraught courtroom gallery with more than 20 family members present in support of Martinson.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Tate Martinson’s mother reacts as her son is given up to 25 years in prison for first-degree robbery. Martinson, who was almost 17 when the crime was committed, turned 18 five days ago.

Martinson pleaded guilty, but defense and state attorneys could not agree on a sentence to recommend to the court. First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge recommended a 25-year prison sentence including a mandatory 12.5 years before being eligible for parole.

“I understand his criminal history is not as advanced as other adults we’ve seen, but he sure started off strong,” Baldridge said. “Had the defendant not entered into a scheme to commit the robbery, it’s very likely the victim would still be alive here today.”

Martinson completed probation in March 2019 for another burglary he committed as a 15-year-old in 2017, in which he attempted to steal firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from a Fort Dodge garage.

Defense attorney Judd Parker asked for probation or deferred judgment — options Martinson would not have been eligible for had he been one year and five days older at the time of the offense — citing expert opinion that he could be rehabilitated at home and that he had already successfully completed probation once.

“If you give me one last chance, I promise I’ll show everyone I can be a good person,” Martinson said in his tearful address to the court after expressing regret that the victim was killed. “Your honor, please have mercy.”

Martinson turned 18 almost a week ago.

Hours-long testimony from forensic psychologist Dr. Luis Rosell detailed an evaluation that the court used to evaluate how the mitigating factors of youth — impulsivity, impetuosity or failure to appreciate the consequences of actions — impacted Martinson’s decision making and his propensity for committing violent offenses in the future.

The special sentencing procedures are based on more recently-developed understandings that the prefrontal lobe of the brain, the last to be developed, is often not fully formed until age 21 to 25. The prefrontal lobe commands issues with attention, disinhibition, impulsivity, judgment, sequencing and organization.

Evaluation showed that Martinson occasionally used marijuana and drank recreationally. He was high on ecstasy the night of the robbery, a first time user. Martinson has lived with his maternal grandmother with his brothers since age two, as his parents experienced issues with substance abuse.

Rosell and the defense characterized Martinson’s role in the robbery as that of a “bystander” who was coerced by peer pressure into the robbery. Doyle rebuked the characterization, citing language from his guilty plea document that he went into the deal with “knowledge and intention” to commit the crime.

“Perhaps Rosell’s finding of secondary involvement is accurate as to involvement in the death, but certainly not accurate as to his involvement in the robbery,” she said. “He was not just a bystander, but he was an active participant.”

Character witnesses testifying in support of Martinson tried to persuade the court that he could be rehabilitated at home with family support, and that Martinson was capable of living a crime-free life when he was occupied by sports and school.

Grandmother Laurie Nelson said Martinson had goals in high school and played sports until last year.

“Did it keep him from doing bad things?” Baldridge asked her.

“No, not really,” she replied.

“The state is satisfied with the record made in court today regarding the defendant’s sentencing,” Baldridge said after the sentence was handed down. “While we hoped for a mandatory term of incarceration to guarantee the safety of our community, we are confident this ever-evolving area of law was adhered to as the sentence was handed down.”

Baldridge said the family of the victim was satisfied with the outcome and that the way the sentencing hearing was conducted should prevent any successful appeals.

“We are part way there to achieving justice for Mr. Yaqoub’s family,” he said.

Co-defendant Damion Chavez is scheduled to face trial for first-degree robbery and first-degree murder in 2021.

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