The last of a dozen teenagers responsible for a string of armed robberies in the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1996 pleaded guilty to four first-degree felonies Monday in 3rd District Court.
Daniel DeSpain, 18, was named as a ringleader of the teens, nine of whom attended Granger High School. DeSpain was one of six of the teens who played on the Granger football team.The teens, most of whom are serving jail or juvenile detention sentences, were responsible for the robberies of about 20 businesses, mostly fast-food restaurants, in the summer of 1996.
DeSpain was originally charged with 18 counts of aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, and ordered to stand trial as an adult. Those charges were later reduced to 14 counts and he pleaded guilty to four robberies.
Prosecutors said DeSpain pointed a gun at victims in at least five of the robberies and arranged transportation or provided weapons used in the others.
"It was as easy for him to go in and rob these places as it for you or I to order a meal from them," said prosecutor John Spikes when the charges were filed.
Each first-degree felony carries a prison term of five years to life and also carries firearm and gang enhancements ranging from five to 10 years that could be sentenced consecutively.
"That's a lot of time," Judge Anne M. Stirba said Monday as DeSpain entered his plea.
"Yes," DeSpain answered as his family watched, some in tears, from the courtroom. DeSpain's father is a Salt Lake police officer.
Stirba ordered DeSpain into protective custody in jail and ordered he be held in another county until his June 22 sentencing. DeSpain, because of his family's involvement in law enforcement, has been attacked in jail several times, according to prosecutor Vincent Meister.
Stirba also ordered that she be notified immediately of any other attacks on DeSpain.