Doc’s Country Store Robber Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison
Houston County Courier - December 2007
The 349th District Court Judge Pam Fletcher heard almost two and one-half days of testimony before sentencing 23 year old Dearthur Pinson, Jr. of Palestine to 10 years Texas Department of Corrections on Wednesday morning, Nov. 28.
At 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2006, after parking his vehicle in the front and leaving his door open, Pinson walked
into Doc’s Country Store, Crockett
He used the ATM machine, and bought a sausage biscuit. The store surveillance video showed Pinson walking back and forth in front of the store counter. Pinson then grabbed the store clerk Jessica Zwar, a junior in high school at the time, around the neck and drug her over to the cash register.
Pinson took approximately $230 out of the cash register.
Houston County District Attorney David Cervantes asked the judge to sentence Pinson to 14-18 years in TDC, giving him some consideration off of the 20-year maximum sentence for his service in the Iraq war.
Defense attorney Daphne Session asked the judge to put Pinson on deferred adjudication probation without a conviction considering his war service, trauma suffered during the war, and his efforts while awaiting trial to obtain treatment for his cocaine and alcohol addictions.
Ms. Session also argued he should receive probation because he had no criminal history prior to the robbery.
Pinson had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army for approximately one month prior to the Robbery.
Pinson, according to testimoney, after taking the money from the cash register repeatedly asked for the door keys to lock the front door.
Ms. Zwar walked to the back of the store with Pinson holding onto her shirt.
Ms. Zwar testified that she was afraid he would take her from the store.
Once at the back of the store, Pinson had Ms. Zwar call for the other store employees, Andy Lawlace and Justin McClain, who were outside in the back cooking barbeque.
Pinson told Lawlace, “I have gun, don’t do anything stupid,” while gesturing to Jessica with his hand in his pocket to indicate he was pointing a gun at Jessica.
Next, Pinson had Lawlace and McClain lie on the floor after Lawlace had offered Pinson money to leave.
Pinson then had Lawlace and McClain get up off the floor and go into the office. “At this point it looked like it wasn’t about money anymore,” Lawlace said and then expressed his fear that Ms. Zwar would be raped.
All witnesses testified that it was their belief that Pinson intended to rape or kidnap Ms. Zwar. Ms. Zwar testified, “He spun me around and told me to take off my clothes.” Ms. Zwar resisted and Pinson then regained control of her by putting his arm around her neck from behind her. Ms. Zwar testified she screamed, flailed her arms and kicked at the office door, boxes and whatever she could. Ms. Zwar was able to break free and run into the office. The store employees locked the office door and called the police.
Pinson got into his Chevrolet Impala and fled. Texas Department of Public Safety Senior Trooper Bob Reeves was beginning his duty shift and followed a speeding vehicle from outside of Latexo traveling at 85 mph.
Trooper Reeves continued to follow the speeding vehicle until he got a good description. He then turned on his emergency lights and siren just past the Anderson County line en route to Palestine.
Pinson then increased his speed up to 120 miles per hour passing numerous vehicles.
A short distance outside of Palestine’s Loop 387, Anderson County Deputy Sergeant Charles Conner deployed his spike sticks puncturing Pinson’s vehicle tire.
Pinson continued to flee through Palestine with DPS Trooper Reeves, Anderson County Deputy Kalinda Franklin, and a Palestine Police Department vehicle behind him in pursuit.
Other law enforcement officers had blocked off streets in Palestine to prevent accidents.
Outside Kolstad Street, Pinson fled his vehicle and was pursued by numerous police officers. He was finally captured by Anderson County Deputy Ryan Tolliver and another officer.
Pinson was then taken into custody and released to Crockett Police Department Captain Michael Calvin. Ranger Sergeant Rudy Flores asked Captain Calvin if he could try and obtain a statement from Pinson.
Pinson then gave a confession to Flores but denied some aspects of the robbery.
Prior to trial Pinson requested a psychologist to assist him in his defense. The state also employed a psychologist, Dr. Frank Andrews, to assist in the prosecution of the case.
On Oct. 15, Pinson pleaded guilty to robbery in an open plea, and the state dismissed the attempted sexual assault count and the aggravated portion of the robbery charge.
At trial, the state presented evidence of the crime, which was a day of testimony.
The defendant presented a day of defense testimony from family, former teachers, and a neighbor that all said the robbery was out of character for the defendant.
The testimony showed the defendant had gone to the VA Medical Center, Temple, for three months for treatment for trauma from the Iraq war, depression, cocaine, and alcohol abuse after his release on bond in October, 2006.
The medical records revealed upon his release on bond in October 2006 he immediately used cocaine.
Pinson testified that he tested clean for drugs while at the VA and had been drug free since his release from the VA in January after completing Phase I of the VA Aftercare program.
Pinson produced records indicating he received Army commendations for assisting in the evacuation of wounded soldiers after a bomb exploded in an Army chow hall in Iraq and for other duties.
Pinson also testified that he had never been convicted of a crime before. Pinson said he committed the robbery because, “I just clicked.”
On cross-examination by Cervantes, testimony showed that Pinson had truancy problems beginning at 14-15 years old. Pinson began smoking marijuana at 17. He had gone into the military because of an involvement in a discount store theft.
While home on leave from the Army he began cocaine use. Pinson admitted that he had a pending DUI in Tacoma Wash. Pinson went AWOL for 5-6 months on his first leave home from the Army.
Pinson’s mother admitted to Cervantes that Pinson had a life-long anger problem.
Pinson gave a different version of the robbery in his confession than what was revealed on the video.
According to Cervantes, he testified to three-four different versions of why he initially entered the store.
Questioned by Judge Fletcher about why he went into the store, Pinson was unable to give her an answer.
In his confession he denied drug use, but his VA records revealed a history of cocaine and alcohol abuse.
In his confession, Pinson denied ever having touched Ms. Zwar although the surveillance video revealed him grabbing her from behind when she was behind the store counter.
Pinson testified that he was sorry for his crime and should be given a second chance.
During closing argument, Ms. Session argued the robbery was out of character for Pinson.
Cervantes argued the robbery was in character for him and putting Pinson on probation would be an injustice to the victims of the robbery.
Cervantes argued that Pinson had been deceptive during his confession, to the VA, and throughout the trial. Cervantes argued also that putting Pinson on probation would send the message that there is no punishment for robbers in Houston County.
After reviewing her notes and the trial exhibits, Judge Fletcher sentenced Pinson to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.
"I am pleased with Judge Fletcher’s decision although I had hoped for a 15 year sentence. I trust her judgment,” Cervantes said.
A sentence of 10 years or less allows the defendant to file a motion for probation and get out of prison within six months Cervantes said. “I will fight to keep him in prison for his full 10 year sentence and oppose any motion for probation brought by Pinson. I will continue to fight for the victims of this robbery,” Cervantes said