Five South Carolina men were sentenced on Friday for their roles in the abduction of a man during a botched marijuana deal at a Berkeley motel last July in which they allegedly threatened to kill him unless they were paid a $30,000 ransom.
All five men were charged with kidnapping and second-degree robbery, but in the middle of their preliminary hearing on May 16 the Alameda County District Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss the kidnapping charges in return for their no contest pleas to second-degree robbery.
Defense attorney Darryl Stallworth, who represents Jamikaco Thompson, 25, of Greenville, S.C., said, "The overall scheme of their conduct was not as offensive as it first appeared."
The men could have faced life in prison if they'd been convicted of kidnapping, but Stallworth said, "This was not a textbook kidnapping considering the conduct of the alleged victim. The situation was not as bad as it looked at first."
Defense lawyer Richard Humphrey, who represents Antravious Evans, 20, of Fountain Inn, S.C., said the victim enticed the five men to come from South Carolina to Berkeley by posting an ad under a phony name on the Internet representing himself to be "the biggest dope dealer in the world" and saying he would sell them 10 pounds of marijuana.
But Humphrey said that when the men met the victim at the Knights Inn Motel at 1512 University Ave. at Sacramento Street at about 6:30 p.m. last July 28 he only had 1 pound of marijuana so the men got upset and "made threats for him to make it right."
Berkeley police Sgt. Frank Landrum wrote in a probable cause statement that the victim, who told investigators that he feared he would be killed, said Evans pointed a rifle at him and he was pushed onto the bed, had his hands tied together with rope and tape and was punched numerous times, Landrum wrote.
The victim said the five men demanded that they be brought nine pounds of marijuana and $30,000 in cash before he could be released, according to Landrum.
The men then put a blanket-like cloth over the victim's head, placed him in a rented 2009 Toyota Highlander with Florida license plates and drove off, Landrum said.
Berkeley patrol officers were able to get the cellphone number of one of the men and determined that the phone was in Patterson in Stanislaus County, about 68 miles from Berkeley, Landrum wrote.
Berkeley police contacted Patterson police and around midnight they were able to arrest the men and rescue the victim, according to Landrum.
An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was found in the rental car's spare tire well along with a loaded magazine, Landrum said.
The victim had a swollen eye and other visible injuries to his face, police said.
Racal Thompson, 25, of Greenville, S.C., who also pleaded no contest to gun and great bodily injury enhancements and has a felony conviction in South Carolina for being an habitual traffic offender, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.
Evans and Jamikaco Thompson were sentenced to 5 years, Vacenta Rice, 28, of Fountain Inn, S.C., was sentenced to 2 years and Rodquavious Whitehurst, 21, of Greenville, S.C., was sentenced to 5 years' probation, which includes 1 year in the county jail.