AUBURN — An Auburn teen will spend the next eight years in prison for burglarizing several homes and robbing and kidnapping a 73-year-old woman in Cayuga County.
In September, 16-year-old Jermaine Gotham, of 53 Parker St., pleaded guilty to six felonies, including two counts of second-degree burglary and one count each of first-degree burglary, second-degree attempted burglary, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery.
According to Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann, Gotham and his co-defendant, 26-year-old Maurice James, went on a crime spree last December, burglarizing four Cayuga County homes in four days.
First, on Dec. 27, 2015, Gotham and James illegally entered two homes — one on Mullen Drive, the other on Wheeler Street — and stole property. Then, two days later, the pair attempted to break into a home on Spring Street.
Still, Budelmann said, it was the incident on Dec. 30 that was most upsetting, when Gotham and James broke into a house on Aurelius Avenue and attacked the elderly woman inside.
At sentencing Thursday before Judge Thomas Leone, the district attorney described the attack on the woman who sustained cracked ribs and a serious head injury as James struck her repeatedly with a glass bottle while Gotham allegedly searched the home for things to steal. The men later forced this victim into the backseat of her car, which James crashed and totaled on the way to a nearby ATM.
"She was afraid to come here today," Budelmann said. "Fear is now a big part of her life."
The elderly woman's son spoke in court on behalf of his mother, noting that she has since sold her family home of more than 50 years and quit her job as a school bus driver in the county.
"They hit her on the head so many times she thought she was going to die in her home," he told Leone, adding that she recalls reciting the Lord's Prayer before the masked intruders. "I hope to help her regain her security in her hometown and in herself."
After those comments before the court, Budelmann continued his sentencing remarks, discussing the defendant's "increasing behavioral issues" over the years, including incidents in which Gotham allegedly stabbed his sister with a pair of scissors and put a cat in a microwave.
"I do not disagree that Mr. Gotham had a very tough upbringing and dealt with trauma at a very young age," he said. "But he has had plenty of chances to get help."
Budelmann said Gotham has showed no remorse for his actions, quoting several recorded phone calls the teen reportedly made from jail that often threatened corrections officers and other inmates.
Gotham, who filed a lawsuit against the Cayuga County Jail after allegedly being held in solitary confinement, was then transferred to the Monroe County Jail.
When it came time for Gotham's defense attorney, Jarrod Smith, to speak, he said his client suffers from mental illness and had been high on drugs and alcohol at the time of the attack.
"A lot of what the district attorney said I can't disagree with," Smith admitted, acknowledging Gotham's troubled past. "To say that Mr. Gotham didn't play a part in what happened, I'm not going to do that. ... But he was not there to hurt anyone and he didn't hurt anyone."
Smith focused on the fact that it was Gotham's co-defendant — who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September — who actually struck the woman and said it was not Gotham's duty to stop James that night. And he asked the judge to consider granting Gotham youthful offender status with 1 1/2 to 3 years in jail or prison.
But Leone denied that request.
"I think you're remorseful ... but everyone is remorseful when they're facing eight years in prison," he told Gotham. "I look at this conduct in December and there was no pulling back. ... And I cannot give you youthful offender in good conscience."
Leone sentenced Gotham to eight years in prison followed by five years post-release supervision on five of the six counts and seven years in prison plus three years post-release supervision for the attempted burglary. All sentences will run concurrently with one another.
"I'm very sorry for all that I did and all that I've done in my life," Gotham said. "I'm sorry for the victim and her family."