Why do judges keep handing suspended sentences to people who com - KMOV.com

Why do judges keep handing suspended sentences to people who commit violent crimes?

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Roneisha Williams was robbed and shot by a man with a long criminal record, a man she says should have been in prison instead of attacking her.

Stories like Williams' are repeated over and over again by prosecutors wanting years of hard time for gunmen victimizing innocent people in the city, but judges often refuse to put them away.

Williams had just stepped off a bus in south St. Louis when she saw him.

"I turned around and he was coming toward me with a gun and I fell," said Williams.

The gunman, Vincent Newman, took her phone and computer, but that wasn't enough to satisfy him.

"He asked for my stuff and he still shot me," Williams told News 4. Williams was shot in the face.

Vincent Newman had repeatedly been cut breaks by the courts. He had a juvenile record. Two counts of robbery.

Then, he became an adult.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty to sticking a gun to the face of a woman walking in the North Hampton Neighborhood.

The St. Louis City Circuit Attorney's office asked for a 15 year prison sentence.

Judge Philip Heagney handed down a suspended sentence because, he told Newman, "I want you to have a chance at probation."

Newman was sentenced to 3 years for Armed Criminal Action, the gun charge, but the judge admitted that he had no choice on that one. Judge Heagney said, "The law says you have to go to the penitentiary on your armed criminal action charge. That's how serious picking up a gun is."

After he got out, Newman was busted with drugs.

Once again, prosecutors asked for 15 years of prison time, but Judge Heagney sentenced Newman to a 120 day drug treatment program.

After Newman completed the program, Judge Heagney suspended his sentence, again, and put him on probation, again.

Then, Newman was released from jail.

"He got out a week before he shot me. Where is the justice in that?" asked Williams.

Roneisha Williams put her arm in front of her face to try to stop the bullet from Newman's gun. It was an instinctive reaction. The bullet passed through her arm, leaving it numb for much of the next year.

Two and a half years later, there is still a mark on her face from the bullet.

What got her the most, Williams said, is the feeling that Vincent Newman shouldn't have been at the bus stop waiting for her.

She places much of the blame on judges who repeatedly cut Newman breaks.

Police suspected Vincent Newman was involved in 9 other robberies, but he was only charged in one case.

Roneisha Williams picked him out of a lineup and testified against him. The prosecutor asked the judge to give him life in prison.

Judge Margaret Neil gave him 20 years. He could be out 15 years from now, around his 40th birthday.

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