May 31, 2014
An Arkansas man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday for running down a group of joggers last fall in downtown Cape Girardeau.
Vincent Anderson, 19, of Little Rock, Ark., last month pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for the Oct. 28 attack, in which he drove a stolen 1994 Ford Thunderbird into a group of joggers at the intersection of Aquamsi and William streets. Three of the joggers suffered minor injuries.
Anderson faced up to 15 years on the assault charge. His passenger, Marcus Jones, 27, of Cotton Plant, Ark., was sentenced to 90 days in jail for two misdemeanors — vehicle tampering and resisting arrest — in connection with the case.
Over the objections of Anderson’s attorney, Scott Reynolds, assistant prosecutor Julia Koester showed Judge Scott Thomsen two videos taken from a cellphone police found in Jones’ possession at the time of his arrest.
Anderson sat quietly as Thomsen watched the videos on a laptop computer, the sound audible to the rest of the court.
In the videos, a man could be heard swearing profusely and laughing loudly as tires squealed in the background.
“I said we’ll scare the [expletive] out of [expletive]s,” the man said, apparently referring to the attack on the joggers.
A voice also could be heard saying, “We had fun” and making a reference to the video game “Grand Theft Auto,” in which criminals use stolen vehicles to cause death and destruction.
Reynolds pointed out most of the profanity and laughter were coming from the passenger, who could be heard giving directions to the driver between outbursts.
He cited Jones’ role — and subsequent light sentence — as a factor in seeking less than the maximum possible sentence for Anderson.
Reynolds showed Thomsen a map of the area, noting that the car came to a complete stop at Main and William streets, then traveled less than 20 feet before hitting the joggers. It could not have accelerated quickly enough to cause serious injury in that distance, Reynolds said.
“I think it’s been blown out of proportion,” he said. ” … There were moderate injuries here. There were minor cuts and bruises. That was it.”
Victim Laura Sheridan said the impact went beyond physical injuries.
“I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, and they’re scared every day that I go up to run that I’m not going to come back,” she told Thomsen. “It has affected us. The injuries may be minor, but it made an impact on all of us.”
Koester said even after being charged with the “intentional and knowing crime” of first-degree assault, Anderson maintained it was just an accident.
“I’m concerned about his lack of accountability,” Koester told Thomsen.
Another victim, Ron Rosati, told Thomsen it was obvious Anderson meant to hit the joggers.
“When I ran past the driver, I looked at him and waved to him as I was running past him. There was no traffic out, and he swerved across four lanes to hit us,” said Rosati, who is the outgoing provost at Southeast Missouri State University.
Paul Schell, who also was hit, agreed.
“There was intent there to run us over,” Schell told Thomsen, adding that he never imagined anyone would deliberately try to run him down. “I run probably over 1,000 miles every year. I always thought if I got hit by somebody, it would be because they were drunk or texting and not paying attention or didn’t see me in the dark. … I don’t think there’s a place in civilized society for someone who has that little respect for other people’s property and other people’s lives.”
Anderson apologized to the victims.
“I just want to say I’m sorry to the victims for what I did,” he said, speaking with a soft lisp. “I’m very sorry. I take full responsibility for it. I’m glad nobody got hurt.”
Thomsen told Anderson he had “stewed over this for some time.”
“You are young, and you have not been in trouble before, but when you decided to do it, you did it big. We are all very fortunate that there wasn’t any serious injury — physical injury,” he said, calling Anderson’s behavior “scary.”
Anderson told Thomsen he was dealing with grief at the time, having just lost his aunt a few hours before he and Jones stole the car.
“People deal with sorrow in different ways, but this is definitely a strange way of dealing with sorrow,” Thomsen replied.
The victims said they were pleased with the sentence.
“I think he was sentenced fairly, and hopefully he’ll get the help he needs while he’s away,” Sheridan said.
Schell said Anderson’s actions will follow him for the rest of his life.
“I know he’s young, and unfortunately, a poor decision pretty much ruined the rest of his life,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that he owned up to it and apologized.”